A Guide on How to Nicely Say “No” to a Date

Say “No” without actually saying “No”

When you break negative news to clients you want to soften the blow and show them you understand their concerns. In most cases there is no need to say “No” directly. You can wrap your negative news into positive content, making it an ingredient of your “news sandwich”. Here are a couple of great tips which will help you to build your best positive “No”:

  • Assert your refusal. If you refuse to do or to deliver something your customers request, it does not mean you do not want to do this. This is just something your company does not provide. Explain this carefully to your customers without giving an empty promise. E.g. “Unfortunately we are not planning to implement this feature in the foreseeable future, sorry for disappointing news”.
  • Say “Yes” instead of saying “No”. When you can say “Yes” to something more important for your customer, do this. E.g. “Where can I download my chat conversations?” – “For security reasons we do not store chat transcripts on our servers, we send them directly to the email defined for this purpose in your account. Protecting our customers’ data is our main priority”.
  • Deliver positive news, even if you had to say “No”. No matter whether you provide any kind of service or run an online store, there is always something you can offer your customers to maintain your relationship. Even if you had to refuse, try to find something your customers will be interested in. Just do your best to offer a positive outcome. E.g. “I would be glad to offer you some extra customization and recommendations for optimizing your live chat customer service”.

Ways to say no to an invitation from someone close to you

Photo by Andreas Rønningen on Unsplash
Photo by Andreas Rønningen on Unsplash
11Be proactive about declining an invitation when you don’t want to attend. If a friend sells lingerie and expects you to attend a party, tell her you’re broke before she invites you.12If you don’t want to say no directly, don’t say anything when invited. Sometimes, just not answering is enough.13If they invite you again, you don’t have to say no. Put them off with “I’m not sure if I can go, let me check my schedule.”14After that, it’s time to excuse yourself with “I’m sorry I won’t be able to attend as I have a work commitment that day.” Be as honest as possible.15Say no while expressing your preferences. Say “I’m just not into heavy metal, so a ticket would be wasted on me.”

You May Also Like: 10 Useful Scripts to Politely Decline an Invitation


How to nicely say no

Following these steps can help you feel more confident and professional when you want to say “no”:

1. Be straightforward

Instead of saying “maybe” or “I don’t think so,” be straightforward in your answer. Make sure whoever is asking you the question understands that you mean no now and forever. When you say things like, “maybe later” or “some other time” you should mean what you are saying. Otherwise, these types of in-between answers may prompt the person to ask you the question another time.

Related: How to Decline a Job Offer (With Email Examples)

2. Briefly explain yourself

It’s polite to give a brief explanation of why you are saying “no.” This can help soften your answer and help the person understand why you decline. When giving your explanation, keep it short. It’s not your responsibility to give a lengthy explanation with all of the details. After a sentence or two, the other person should be understanding of your decision. Rather than fabricating an intricate reason why you’re saying “no,” keep it simple and courteous.

3. Bring up an alternative

If you want to be seen as a team player at work, offer an alternative when you say “no.” For example, if your coworker asks for your help but you’re too busy, you could say, “Sorry, no. I’m really busy with my own tasks right now. If you still need help by the end of the week, please let me know. I can offer my help then.” This shows that you want to be agreeable and helpful while also respecting your own boundaries.

The same is true if you’re invited to an after-work event but feel too tired to go this time. You can politely decline by saying, “It’s been a hectic week for me, and I need some time to relax. Can we reschedule for next Monday?” When you set these clear boundaries, people learn to respect your needs. Everyone can understand that you need some time for yourself, and creating this precedent upfront makes it easier to say “no” in the future.

4. Keep your stance

After you say “no,” keep that as your final answer. By giving in and changing your answer to “yes,” people may be able to get you to eventually agree to things you don’t want to do. By staying firm on your answer, your coworkers and employer will understand they can’t persuade you any further. It’s okay to feel confident about your decision and be in charge of your own life.

Related: How to Make Important Decisions About Your Career

Listen to your customers

Listening to customers is one of the most important aspects of providing excellent customer service experience. Your refusal to listen is one of the ways you say “No” to customers. No matter how busy you are, listen carefully to ensure you understand their questions and issues. If you deliver negative news without looking into their issues, you will ruin your relationship with customers. Here are three reasons why listening to customers is important:

  1. Show your empathy while listening. If your customers do not believe that you are truly engaged trying to understand them, they’re much more likely to walk away and turn to competition seeking a better customer service. E.g. “Could you provide more details about your issue so that I could ensure that there is no misunderstanding?” instead of “Unfortunately we cannot help you with this issue, sorry.”
  2. Focus on customer experience. Listening is one of the most important ingredients of superior customer service experience. Listen carefully even if you know that you cannot offer the best solution right here and right now. After you collect all information, you may offer an alternative and provide recommendations that will show your desire to help.
  3. Listening helps your company to improve. And this is true. If you not only listen to what your customers say, but also carefully document this, you can use this information to improve your products or service in future. Our customers are the best source for details about our success and failures. We can use the data they provide to make our company better.

About Science of People

Our mission is to help you achieve your social and professional goals faster using science-backed, practical advice. Our team curates the best communication, relationship, and social skills research; turning into actionable and relatable life skills. Science of People was founded by Vanessa Van Edwards, bestselling author of Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People. As a recovering awkward person, Vanessa helps millions find their inner charisma.

How to Say No to a Date

Dating can be rough.

Luckily, you don’t have to say yes to every single one of them.

… Or do you?

If you’re struggling to find dates, then perhaps saying yes is the way to go. But if you know exactly who you’re looking for, and that guy or gal just doesn’t fit the billm, then you need a polite rejection. Add on the following in bold to make it a bit more gentle:

  • “I’m just not looking for a date right now, but we can just hang as friends instead.
  • “I’d rather focus on my work/school, as it’s my #1 priority. However, we can still study or collab together!”
  • “The timing is not good for me, as I just left a relationship not too long ago. But we can still keep in touch!
  • “Sorry, I have strong feelings for someone else right now. But I’m having a house party soon—why don’t you invite your friends, and we can all have fun?
  • “Sorry, I don’t want to ruin what we have. Let’s continue being friends!

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Saying No to a Project

When your boss assigns something completely out of scope, or a colleague asks for (yet) another favor, saying no through email is necessary—for both your sanity and documentation purposes. Any time project details are involved, a written conversation can help solidify what was discussed.

When The Project is Part of Your Job, But You’re Up to Your Eyeballs in Work

Hi [Name],

Thanks for including details about [project name]. Based on our last conversation, my priorities for this week are as follows:

[Priority project #1] [Priority project #2] [Priority project #3]

Since I’m currently at capacity with these tasks, should I table [new project] for [day] next week? This works best on my end so I can complete the above tasks without affecting the overall timeline.

Please let me know if I should priortize the steps you mentioned instead.

I appreciate the clarification!

When The Project Is Just Not Right for You

Hi [Name],

Thanks for thinking of me on this one! I’m always up for a challenge, but this falls a little too far outside my skillset. Even though I can’t help you out, I do have a tip—this sounds like a great assignment for [insert name of colleague whose job it actually is]. [S/he] handles similar cases all the time!

I can forward the instructions over to [Person] if that’s helpful?

A Recommendation You Don’t Want to Give

We’re all for boosting the Ninja image and helping each other, but sometimes, you get a recommendation request that just doesn’t feel right. Plus, handing one out without full support from your gut can come back to haunt you later.

When You Can’t Comment on Their Skills


Thanks for thinking of me, I really enjoyed working with you. However, I’m not sure I’m the right person to write your recommendation, as I can’t adequately speak to your skill in [area they want kudos for].

If you have another colleague or former direct manager who saw you in action, I’m sure their recommendation would be more telling of your abilities.

Best of luck!

When It’s Company Policy Not to Give Recommendations

Even if you wanted to give a recommendation, your company policy might now allow it.

Hi [Name],

I really enjoyed working with you on [project], but our company policy restricts us from providing any personal recommendations. Sorry I couldn’t help with this!

Ways to say no when youre asked on a second date

Image from Canva – under one-time use licens
Image from Canva – under one-time use license
21If you’re asked on a second date, say no by saying something like “I appreciate the offer, but I have other commitments”.22There are other ways to say no to a second date. Think along these lines: “I don’t want to give you the wrong impression. I just want to be friends.”

You May Also Like: How to Reject a Girl Nicely without Feeling Guilty

23If he/she persists, make it about you. Say “This is not the right time for me to get into a relationship.”24If he/she can’t let it go, say no a bit more directly. “I have decided I don’t want to go. Please respect my decision.”25When you’ve exhausted your ways to say no indirectly, resort to ignoring the requests. Hopefully, the person will take the hint, and you won’t have to say no in so many words.

2. Express your interest and dedication (even if you are saying no, today)

Sometimes you’ll have a client you work with regularly who comes to you with a new project, but at that moment or on that day you don’t have time. Don’t just tell them you don’t have time, it is also important to express your genuine interest in their project, as well. Show appreciation that they have come to you with more work, so that you can pay for your Internet and pet food. Let them know when you will be available too. Being busy and having too much work is not a bad thing and most clients can work within a schedule as long as you also show your dedication and support of their project and efforts as well.

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