There may be occasions where you need to turn down someone’s request or offer yet saying no feels a bit harsh, or perhaps it wouldn’t be the best approach overall. This could happen with the people you love, such as a close friend or a family member, or an annoying stranger.

In this article we’ll have a look at five types of people you may need to say no in a more clever or creative way, as well as seven ways to do so. If you can think of other ways to say no without saying no, or if you can think of a particularly useful example, please let me know by leaving a comment at the end of the post.

Let’s begin.

People you may need to say no to without saying no

Those who drink too much

You probably didn’t think of this one, but it’s actually quite common. Ever been at a party where a stranger or even somebody you knew turned into a completely different person after a few drinks? Some people seem to be unable to control themselves when they drink and although most of the time they’ll be harmless, in some cases you’ll need to pay extra attention to the words you use because you never know how they may react.

The worst case scenario, obviously, is an aggressive reaction (whether it’s physical or verbal), but you also want to avoid a situation where the other person may be upset and saying no too directly may hurt their feelings, especially if they’re your friend. Whatever the case, if you’re interacting with someone who’s had one too many drinks it’s always best to avoid any kind of confrontation, and say no… without saying no.

Those who just won’t get it

We all have to deal with stubborn people from time to time. They may not necessarily realize that their attitude is wrong, or they may even be forced to behave a certain way (think pushy salespeople). So how do you deal with someone whose job is to sell you the most useless item in the world, or whose lack of intelligence or flexibility would puzzle a psychologist?

More often than not, the best approach is to say no without saying no. And when it comes to dealing with salespeople, experienced ones in particular, you want to avoid saying no straight away because chances are they’ll find a clever way to keep asking more questions; a different response, on the other hand, will throw them off guard.

Energy vampires

If you didn’t know already, yes — there is a very insidious category of people who will try and steal your time and energy so they can temporarily feel better (most of the time this happens without them realizing). These are commonly referred to as energy vampires and some types, such as compulsive talkers or extremely selfish individuals in general, love to ask for things.

It could be a long phone call, your time, your advice, or even your money. But whatever they ask, it’s always so they can feed on your energy and eventually make you feel sick mentally or even physically. Again, these people can be very insidious and may make you feel like you’re rude if you say no to them. When this happens, you still want to say no (obviously), but do so in a more clever way.

New friends or partners

Alright, enough about the bad guys. There are situations where you may be surrounded by someone you genuinely care about, and you know they genuinely care about you, and saying no may seem a bit too harsh for whatever reason.

Typically, if they’re your partner and you’ve been with them for a while, or if they’re a close friend, you won’t really need to think about this as the other person will already know your personality as well as what you like or dislike. But when it comes to people you’ve just met, you may want to say no… without saying no. Yes, you should still be yourself, but you want to avoid anything that may ruin the new friendship or relationship if the other person interprets your words the wrong way.

Your colleagues or boss

The last common situation where you may want to say no without saying no is anything related to your job. This is similar to the previous scenario, however in this case your words may affect your career as well, so that’s one more reason to be considerate and make sure you don’t come off as arrogant.

So when a colleague asks you to do something you clearly can’t or don’t want to do (whether it’s working overtime, swapping a shift with them, or even going to a social event with them), you want to use your intuition and be tactful; while, of course, being assertive. Let’s now have a look at seven ways you can say no in a clever or creative way as well as some examples.

7 ways to say no without saying no

1. Say yes

But not in the sense that you just give in. The thing is, there’s certain types of people that simply won’t get it (for example, those who are extremely stubborn, as we saw earlier) and often the best and easiest way to say no to them is to actually pretend that you’re happy to do whatever it is that they’re asking you to do.

You can then ghost them — block their phone number and refuse to meet them again. Do I recommend doing this? In general, no. And if you care about the other person, it may be a really bad decision. But you do need to be aware that in some cases it’s the other person who doesn’t care about you, and perhaps they’re also being abusive, in which case I guarantee you would have the divine right to simply ignore them and say no — I mean, yes.


  • Villain: “Oh, come on, it’s going to be the best party ever, you just have to join us, I promise you’ll have fun.”
  • You: “You know what? That’s actually a good idea. I’ll be there for sure!” (Then you don’t show up)

2. Take your time

As I mentioned in my previous article about how to say no, when someone asks you a question, you’re allowed to think. You may think it’s rude to wait and take your time, but answering too quickly actually makes it easier for the other person to pressure you into doing something you wouldn’t normally do.

Now, when it comes to saying no without saying no, you can take your time as a way to turn down the other person’s request or offer. After a while (a minute, an hour, or several weeks, depending on what the other person asked for) they’ll usually realize your intention even though you never said no to them. At that point they may also have realized that perhaps their request wasn’t appropriate, and won’t take it too personally.


  • Villain: “Hey, I have a small favor to ask. Any chance you could (…)?”
  • You: “I’m quite busy during the weekend, let me check my to-do list and think about it, I’ll definitely let you know if I’m available.”

3. Express your feelings

People may disagree with your views or opinions, but there’s no way they’ll ever be able to criticize your emotions. So when you want to say no and you believe the other person can’t — or doesn’t want to — understand your point of view, you can talk about your emotions instead. For example, you could mention that you feel too uncertain, or too anxious.

This is a powerful strategy because, again, your emotions cannot be questioned. If you clearly state that what the other person asks for causes you negative thoughts or feelings, then it pretty much means that you’re going to say no… without actually saying it. Then, if the other person insists, they’re basically showing they don’t care about you, in which case it could mean you need to avoid or ignore them.


  • Villain: “I really need (…), could you please do this for me? I promise it’s just for this time.”
  • You: “I’m going through a difficult time, I’m already dealing with quite a lot of stress. I feel overwhelmed and I’m afraid I can’t do anything that interferes with my mental health.”

4. Say you’re busy

This is another circumstance where the other person can’t really question what you are saying (unless they somehow know how and where you spend your free time, which sounds kind of creepy; and if they have the attitude where they feel entitled to tell you how you should spend your free time, they’re probably energy vampires anyway).

The fourth possible way to say no to someone without saying no is to simply state that you’re busy. You can choose to be vague and say you need to work on something you’ve been putting off for a while, or be very specific. Even if you tell them exactly what you need to do, they still won’t know how time consuming it will be so they probably won’t insist.


  • Villain: “Hey, I have a small favor to ask. Any chance you could (…)?”
  • You: “It may sound crazy but I literally don’t have any free time anymore, I’m basically working 24/7.”

5. Say something surreal

Don’t overlook this one because it works, although only with certain types of people. In my article about energy vampires I’ve mentioned that when a vampire approaches you, he or she expects a certain reaction, and if your reaction is the complete opposite of what they imagined, that throws them off guard; they become really confused and they have no power over you anymore.

With that in mind, if you want to say no to someone but you prefer not to say it, you can come up with something surreal. It could be a surreal joke or analogy, or a super weird statement in general. You can make it really obvious that you’re trying to avoid their questions, or actually trick them into thinking they’re not smart enough to get it. Use your creativity!


  • Villain: “(…) and I’m pretty sure we share the same view. I mean, that is just wrong, isn’t it?”
  • You: “I asked my cat yesterday and he said it’s 100 percent true. I always trust my cat.”

6. Be as vague as possible

Another easy way to say no without saying no is to keep saying statements that are very vague, until the other person gives up (or understands you want to decline their request while being tactful, which is the best case scenario).

When being vague, you can use some of the methods described already. For example, you could initially state that what they’re asking for makes you feel anxious, or upset; then, add that you’ve been quite busy recently, and throw a couple surreal/funny statements here in there to confuse them (if you think it’s appropriate). Chances are they’ll understand your intention but also realize you don’t want to hurt them.


  • Villain: “Hey, I have a small favor to ask. Any chance you could (…)?”
  • You: “Well, there’s so many things I need to do. I wonder if I’ll have the time to (…) tomorrow. I feel so anxious, it’s overwhelming”

7. Offer an alternative

If you’re talking to someone you genuinely care about, such as a close friend, this could be the best approach overall. No need to lie or come up with a list of possible excuses — you just need to tell them you’d be available for something else.

This way you’ll be able to say no without saying no and, most importantly, show them that you still want to help them out. Often, when someone asks a favor, what they are really asking for is your time and attention, and if you tell them you’d be available somewhere else or on a different date, they’ll still feel it’s a positive response.


  • Villain: “Hey, I have a small favor to ask. Any chance you could (…)?”
  • You: “You know what, it’d be great if we could go to the other place, the one we’ve been a few weeks ago.”

Can you think of another way to say no without saying no? Perhaps one you’ve used yourself? Leave a comment and let me know! 👇