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Saying no can be challenging, but it’s important for both setting boundaries and maintaining healthy relationships. Here are some examples of common types of requests for your time and energy — and ways to say no with integrity. A general tip: Keep it short. The more words you use to say no, the more others will suspect you are lying — or open to negotiating.

1. You’ve got plans for the weekend. On Thursday your boss sticks his head in your office and says, “We need another volunteer for the company tournament this weekend. Can we count on you to be there?”

You respond: “I appreciate you thinking of me, but this is my weekend for [catching up around the house, taking the kids to my mom’s, resting up for the big presentation on Monday, or whatever it is you have planned for the weekend]. I’ll look forward to hearing how it all went on Monday!”

2. Your mom calls and wants you to come to dinner — tonight.

You respond: “That sounds like fun; I’d love to have dinner with you. Tonight won’t work for me, but let’s look at the calendar right now and find a good time. And if you let me know a bit in advance next time, I can keep the calendar open.”

3. Your college-age child calls to ask you to fix or take care of something she could (and should) probably be handling herself.

You respond: “You know, this is one of those adult responsibilities that I have a lot of confidence you can now take care of all on your own. If you want some suggestions on how to get started, let me know. Otherwise, just do your best with it. I’ll be excited to hear how it turns out.”

4. A former workmate contacts you for a recommendation you don’t want to give.

You respond: “I appreciate your thinking of me, Dan, and wish you all the best in your job hunt; I think there are other people who might be a better choice for that kind of recommendation, though. Why not contact your former supervisor and ask her for the referral? I am sure she would be happy to help.” Or, “Dan, as you know, I’m an accounting guy. I’m better with numbers than words. Just thinking of writing this makes me sweat! Could you find someone else to do it? Maybe your old boss? Thanks!”

5. A friend asks to borrow your truck, and you’re not entirely comfortable with the idea.

You say: “Sorry, I’m not comfortable loaning my truck out, but I could easily drive you to a rental center where I know you can rent one for less than $50.”

This was excerpted from “How to Be True to Your Word” which was originally published in the March 2008 issue of Experience Life magazine.

Cat Thompson

Cat Thompson is an emotional fitness expert. Learn more at

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