8 Ways to Refuse Politely But Firmly


Do you want me to prove it? Here is the simplest test. Choose 4 statements that are true for you.













Choose A, A, and A again? Welcome to the club of ordinary people! Six months ago, I also ran headlong through life, like long-legged Kenyans through the Olympic stadium. The question throbbed in my head: “How? How? How can I do it all!?” I have read dozens of books on time management – from David Allen and Brian Tracy to Dorofeev and Arkhangelsky. I made to-do lists, ate frogs, mastered agile scheduling, pinpointed kairos, read on the subway, and switched off social media. I lived on a schedule 7 days a week. And then a terrible thing happened: out of 24 hours, I could no longer squeeze out a single free minute. 

While I was puzzling over where to find Hermione Granger to borrow her time-turner, Greg McKeon suggested a new look at our “vanity of vanities”. “Stop looking for time,” he urges. “Better get rid of the excess!” I’ve always stayed away from religions, but after reading Greg’s book, I came to believe in essentialism. 

The word has Latin roots: essentia means “essence”. Essentialism is the life philosophy of those who want to do less and achieve more. Essentialists focus on what matters most to them and get rid of the excess. Their trump card is the ability to say “no”. Here are 8 ways to refuse people politely but firmly! 

Method number 1. CLEAR PAUSE 

Arm yourself with silence. You have a hitch in the conversation. As soon as you hear a request for a favor, do not rush to agree. Take a short break. Count to three before answering. If you feel brave, wait a little more: you will see that the interlocutor will be the first to fill the void. 

Method number 2. SOFT “NO BUT” 

This is how I answered my friends in January. If you don’t want to upset people, explain the situation, offer options. If it is difficult to refuse in person, use social networks and instant messengers. Distance will reduce the fear of embarrassment and give you time to think and write a graceful rejection. 

Method number 3. “NOW, JUST LOOK AT THE SCHEDULE” 

Let this phrase become firmly established in your speech. Do not agree to any request: you have no less business than others. Open your diary and see if you can make time. Or don’t open it if you already know it won’t work. In this case, your answer is a tribute to courtesy. 

Method number 4. AUTO ANSWERS 

In June, I received an email from the editor-in-chief of Vegetarian: “Hello! Thank you for your letter. Unfortunately, I’m away and can’t read it right now. If the matter is urgent, please contact my colleague. Here are her contacts. Have a good day!” I rejoiced. Of course, I had to wait a long time for an answer, but I was relieved that we are still learning to set personal boundaries. Thanks to the Internet and mobile phones, we are easy to find, but this does not mean that you have to be in touch 365 days a year without days off and holidays. Set auto-replies – and let the world wait for your return. 

Method number 5. “YES! WHAT SHOULD I EXCLUDE? 

Saying no to your boss seems unthinkable. But to say yes is to put your productivity and current work at risk. Remind your boss what to skip if you agree. Let him find his own way. When your boss asks you to do something, say, “Yes, I’d love to do it! Which projects should I deprioritize so I can focus on the new one?” 

Method number 6. REJECT WITH HUMOR 

Humor lightens the mood. Joke it off, show off your wit … and the interlocutor will more easily accept your refusal. 


Help is often more important to people than our presence. Does your sister want you to take her to IKEA? Excellent! Offer your car and say that the keys will be there. This is a reasonable response to a request that you want to partially satisfy without spending all your energy. 

Method number 8. TRANSLATE THE ARROWS 

There are no irreplaceable people. Our support is invaluable, but usually people come with a problem that needs to be solved, and who solves it is not so important. Say: “I’m not sure I can help, but I have a good friend…”. In the bag! You have facilitated the search for an artist and did not waste precious time. 

Verdict: Essentialism is the best book on prioritization. She will not talk about time management and productivity, but she will teach you to throw out unnecessary things, unnecessary things and unnecessary people from life. She will convince you to say an elegant, but categorical “no” to what distracts you from the main thing. McKeon has excellent advice: “Learn to place emphasis in your life. Otherwise, someone else will do it for you.” Read – and say “no”! 

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