Recently while at the grocery store picking up a few items, I came across a close friend who told me about a new community event she was chairing for her community organization. The event was very exciting I have to admit; however, it did sound to be a lot of work. And before I knew it, I was being asked if I could help with the event and that I was the only person that could do this specific task.

Why is one little word seemingly so very difficult to say? So, more often than not, many people find it terrifying to tell someone “no,” that in fact they would rather over-commit themselves. Again, why is one tiny word so challenging to say? It’s because one of our most fundamental needs is for social connection and a feeling that we belong. We worry that saying “no” will change the way the other person view and/or perceive us.

Another reason the word no may be difficult to say is that the majority of us are people pleasers, especially with people with whom we are close and can’t stop ourselves from accepting every request for help – whether it’s volunteering, chairing on a committee, or any other activity. In the case of my dear friend’s community event, I said “no” and gave a donation instead. It was the least I could do to help out without disappointing her. To avoid the guilt, here are a few tips on how to say “no,” politely.

 Plan ahead. Rehearse saying “no” ahead of time, just in case you think you might be asked to participate or purchase something.

 Delay your response. If a request takes you by surprise, reply by saying, “Allow me to check my calendar” or “Let me think a little before I commit.” If you delay your answer, the person asking the favor is more likely to ask someone else.

 Start with a compliment or positive statement. Always preface your answer by saying something like, “I’m honored that you consider me. However, I have another commitment on that day.”

 Don’t over-commit and under-deliver. Resist the temptation to say, “Maybe next time,” unless you mean it. Be genuine and sincere.

 Don’t waiver with your response. If a person refuses to take “no” for an answer, stand your ground. Repeat your polite refusal as often as necessary or simply state: “Again, for the last time, regrettably I must turn down this request; please respect this.”