Keep it simple: Resist the urge to over explain. Simple responses such as “Sorry,
I can’t this time.” “I’m afraid I’m busy that day” are most effective. The more details you offer, the more there will be to argue about.
The other person may try to change your mind or decide that your excuse isn’t good enough. (“You mean cleaning your closets is more important than I am?”)
When in doubt buy time; there’s no law saying you must always answer at that moment. Say a co-worker ask you to head up the fund raising drive for a company-sponsored charity. Tell her, “let me think about it, and I’ll get back to you.”
Then consider the best way to say no.
Expand your definition of, “I have plans.” Many people feel they can’t turn down an invitation unless they have another engagement on the calendar.
But if you’ve scheduled some “ me” time for yourself, that is an engagement. So, don’t be afraid to say” sorry, I have plan” .
Make it a policy: Make your ‘no’ sound less personal by referring to a rule you have about the thing being asked. For example; “sorry, but I have a policy about never lending my car.” Or “I make it a rule never to date people I work with,” such a response carries fewer stings because it says ‘no’ to a practice, not to an individual.
Remember that, behind every no is a yes: you’re not sure you want to work 11-hour days or baby-sit your neighbour’s kids.
But do you know what you want to do instead? Every time you say no to a less than-appealing request, you say yes to something else.
Maybe it’s one golden hour to take a bubble bath, read a good book or play with your kids.
Saying no frees you to pursue a dream—to take a class and develop your potential, or to work for a cause you believe in.
The more time you can give to the things you truly care about, the more satisfying your life will feel.