Friday, July 13, 2007

Miss Manners: How to Say No

photograph of Miss Manners

I've written before about the joy of saying no when asked to do something that doesn't fit with your goals and priorities.

But I realize I've forgotten to quote Miss Manners, who provides such good advice on how to say no.

Her recommended phrase is, "Oh, I'm so terribly sorry, I just can't." If asked why not, her reply is, "Because I'm afraid it's just impossible."

[Quoted from the wonderful book, Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, by Judith Martin]


John Trosko said...

Hi Jeri,

Excellent advise when you are not trying to hurt someone's feelings.

- John

Claire Josefine said...

I'm fond of another of her retorts, too: When asked a question you'd rather not answer, simply respond, "why do you ask?"

Setting boundaries is crucial, especially to being organized. My preference for saying "no" is to be kind about it, to remember our common humanity. Including "thank you" goes a long way . . .

-- Claire Josefine

Jeri Dansky said...

Claire and John: Thank you both for raising the point that you can say "no" and still be kind.

In a response to another question about being asked to do (yet another) favor for someone who doesn't reciprocate, Miss Manners offered this reply, "I'm so sorry, I can’t this time; I hope you find someone."

Bethany said...

thank you to you all. this is very helpful!

Jeri Dansky said...

Bethany, I'm so glad to hear that!

kbfenner said...

Thanks for the reminder! When I first tried this, years ago, I so afraid. What I found was that nobody ever seemed to even ask the follow up question! Simply saying, "I'm so sorry;I can't" is enough and they go on to the next person!


and with practice, you start enjoying the time you have to put your stuff away, and so on, instead of feeling guilty that you didn't take care of someone else's stuff.

Jeri Dansky said...

kbfenner: Exactly! Saying "no" to some things - other people's priorities, not your own - allows you to say "yes" to the things that really matter to you.

This is one piece of advice that was a revelation to me when I first read it. And while I sometimes explain why I'm declining, there are many times when I just follow Miss Manners' advice.

Anonymous said...

I love Miss Manners! Thanks for reminding me of "Oh, I'm so terribly sorry, I just can't." I had to use it this weekend!

Jeri Dansky said...

Anonymous, I'm always glad to hear from another fan of Miss Manners! I'm glad the timing was so perfect.