Seeking the Elusive Elixer of NO

Dear Friend / Employer / Charity / Business Acquaintance / Neighbor,

I regret to inform you that the answer to your recent request is a firm and resounding NO. I do understand the position that you are in, and that you would appreciate my: help with the move / coming in on my day off / making a generous donation / becoming a dues-paying member of your newly established professional group / walking your dog five times a day while you’re on vacation. However, due to a recently expanded work load in my personal and professional lives, as of this morning I have committed to saying NO to every request and offer, and you have the distinct honor of receiving this message first. Congratulations.

Please understand that this was a difficult decision, and one about which I deliberated for quite some time, but I find I must be consistent in my refusal, lest hurt feelings and resentment ensue. As this is a new program, it is subject to change at any time, so you may wish to renew your application in the future.

Once again, I appreciate the importance of your request and am honored that you thought of me. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me in the same manner in which you have done so previously.

With regrets,

a.k.a. The Chronic Yes-Woman

P.S. Hey, that was a good attempt, wasn’t it? I almost had you going! Anyway, for those who want my help, I’ll be over next Saturday — say, around eightish? Who needs to sleep in on the weekend, anyway? For all others, the check is in the mail. I should warn you, though, that next time I really will say no. I’m not kidding. Meanwhile, thanks for the chance to practice my rejection technique. I realize it needs a little work on the follow-through, but I think I’m onto something here.

P.P.S. I’m serious here. Next time, the answer is NO. Really. I promise.


  1. Katie said,

    Sunday, October 12, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    No it’s not. I know you. He he he. Just kidding. I’d like to see you soon! My season is finally going to be over in about 3 weeks! YEA!

  2. Monday, October 13, 2008 at 5:44 am

    I hate saying no too.. :)

  3. Monday, October 13, 2008 at 5:45 am

    Can I borrow the letter?

  4. spyscribbler said,

    Monday, October 13, 2008 at 6:58 am

    You go! I got good at it when I had a friend who was never around who would only call me to ask for favors. And with my business. They would take a mile if they could…

  5. Robin said,

    Monday, October 13, 2008 at 8:41 am

    OMG, it’s so hard for me to say no it’s not even funny. I’m working on it though too. Thanks for the friendly reminder. :) Good luck on your end. Real quick, do you think you could…

    Just kidding.

  6. Monday, October 13, 2008 at 8:50 am

    Katie, check your email! Well, in a bit. Can’t send a message ’til I get home.

    Keri, go for it! May it help you. Unfortunately, I think it probably just shows everyone what a sucker I am and that I should be first on their list when asking for favors! But it’s a start, anyway.

    Spyscribbler, that’s awful! I’m glad you saw through your friend’s neediness.

    Robin, I totally believe that about you! Good luck with it, too. :-)

  7. Pam said,

    Monday, October 13, 2008 at 9:44 am

    I now officially offer myself to Caryn and the rest of you to be your No person. I have success 98.5% of the time and if I’m trying, I can actually say no without saying no (as to minimize bad feelings.)


    See? ;-)

  8. alyson noel said,

    Monday, October 13, 2008 at 11:52 am

    I can totally relate to this! An unequivocal NO is one of the hardest things for me to do!

  9. Erin said,

    Monday, October 13, 2008 at 12:38 pm


    That was awesome.

  10. Monday, October 13, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    Pam, I could definitely use some lessons! You should see some of the stuff I’ve gotten roped into lately. But I feel mean and selfish saying no. After all, I can always find some time, right?

    People pleasers unite. Alyson, you with us?

    Thanks, Erin.

  11. Cam said,

    Monday, October 13, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    I could have used this today — I’m on VACATION — and I spent a few hours interviewing candidates on the phone. OMGosh, did I really do that?! Well, at least I was on a beach (while drinking something appropriate for the beach — can we say “little drink umbrellas”?). No would have served me well.

  12. Melissa Blue said,

    Monday, October 13, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    Are you sure on the dog walking? I know a few people who could use your services. I wanted to send them to you, but if you are saying no…

    I can also say no very well. My work environment lends me saying it A LOT.

    It is hard, but you can overcome your “yes” tendacies. Do it in the mirror. Say loud. Say it to the cat. If you feel yourself giving think of all the free time you can get just by saying no.

    If that doesn’t work, grumbling under your breath while you are doing the task you’ve said “yes” to. I find that very theraputic. (Yeah, I know, that spelling is off by miles.)

  13. jenny said,

    Monday, October 13, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    Love it! I think as women, not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings/inconvienience them/seem like less than “superwoman” we take on far too much! I totally agree with you. Saying no is the new yes. : )

  14. writtenwyrdd said,

    Monday, October 13, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    Gee, What part of YES don’t you understand? The encroachment onto your person time, money, attention span and your life? i used to say yes a lot. then I just stopped answering the damned phone, lol.

    by the way, the Pug needs his walkies at 8, 12, and 6.

  15. Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at 5:10 am

    i’m so terrible at the NO too. I’m copying and pasting this for future reference!

  16. Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at 6:55 am

    Unfortunately, I’m good at saying NO. I’ve had a lot of jackasses over the years who’ve helped me hone that particular craft. ;) Of course, that doesn’t mean the answer will always be NO. I’m just saying it never hurts to ask.

  17. Suzanne said,

    Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at 7:21 am

    Lol, What a great way to profess the word no. I can say No when required, but my youngest daughter finds it terribly hard to say no. It does not exist in her vocabulary.
    Do you mind if I send this to her, perhaps she can use it to lean how easy it is.
    Oh, and you did have me in until the end of the first paragraph. hehehe
    Suzanne :)

  18. Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at 7:30 am

    Ugh. I’m definitely a yes woman too.

  19. Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at 8:18 am

    Very good! I have no problem saying no, and I hate to see people who are being overrun by their yes-saying!

    You can do it! Just say no!

  20. Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at 8:25 am

    Cam, check your email! :-)

    Melissa, if I could leave during the day — and if it weren’t so cold — you know, maybe it would be a good money-maker. :-)

    Jenny, so true! So many women were raised as people-pleasers.

    LOL, Writtenwyrd! Thanks for the laugh.

    Go for it, Joanne! And good luck. :-)

    Marcia, that’s awful! I mean, it’s good that you’ve learned your boundaries and can enforce them, but in such a frustrating way?

    Sure, Suzanne. Maybe it’ll help. ;-)

    That makes lots of us, it seems, Jennifer!

  21. Katie Reus said,

    Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    Hilarious! I used to be a yes-woman, but not any more! Since I started writing, saying no has never been easier ;)

  22. Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    I’m with Keri–I want to borrow your letter, make lots and lots of copies, laminate one of them and tape it to the front door, then preemptively pass sheets out to random strangers who LOOK like they’re going to ask me to do something…

  23. Courtney said,

    Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    Hahaha, you’re great. I have a really hard time saying no, too.

  24. somewhat voluble said,

    Wednesday, October 15, 2008 at 12:05 am

    I have a problem with not being able to say no as well.

  25. Wednesday, October 15, 2008 at 9:38 am

    In this way, I’m just like you. So I spend a lot of time screening my calls. :)

  26. Wednesday, October 15, 2008 at 10:20 am

    Very well written!

    Now with that said, I’ve had this craving lately, so please bake me a pie – apple with little crumblies on top, preferably – and overnight FedEx to me. I’ll email you my address. Thanks a bunch, you’re the best, I owe you big time, etc etc etc.!

  27. Mary said,

    Wednesday, October 15, 2008 at 12:07 pm


    I love the idea of a standard rejection for all the annoying/expensive/time-consuming/boring requests of life. Which always multiply whenever you have too much on already. And though I’m much better than I used to be, I sometimes still give in and say ‘yes’ when I would have preferred to say ‘no’ – just one of many reasons I dream of having a personal secretary. Who would need to double as something else. I mean. I’m not THAT popular and busy. ;)

  28. Wednesday, October 15, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    I need one of these. With checkboxes so I don’t have any excuse to wimp out and can be as precise as possible about what I’m saying no to!

  29. Wednesday, October 15, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    I have a friend who swears that the answer is to post the word NO in giant letters right next to the telephone…and then, when you’re fumbling around thinking you might crumble and agree to help somebody move, come in on Saturdays, work late, walk their dog, there it is, inspiring you and reminding you of your one true goal: NOT TO DO IT. (I’m still hopeless at it–unless I’m being terrorized by a deadline, and then it’s easy. Say, maybe that’s why I never seem to finish this book!) GREAT post!

  30. Thursday, October 16, 2008 at 11:17 am

    Great letter, Caryn! And hey, I’ve noticed that when I’ve practiced saying “no” I’ve gotten better at actually doing it. A wonderful book that helped me was “When I say no, I feel guilty” by somebody.Helps when you’ve said no a million times and the person is like, “okay, see you at 4 a.m. to take me to the airport because you only live an hour and a half away from me.”

    My favorite saying on this topic: “What is it about NO you don’t understand?”

  31. virginia said,

    Friday, October 17, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    better to say no once in a while and preserve your sanity! :)

    happy friday!

  32. Mizzz_K said,

    Friday, October 17, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    I was just wondering. I sold my condo and I’m moving into a house. Is there any chance…

    No worries. I’ll find someone to help. Seriously. Someone will help me. Some how. Some way. I know I can hire people.


    Couldn’t help it. I had to do it. Just had to. Good luck with the No Campaign. K

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