What She Wants

From Loans to Blind Dates: The Truly Rich Lady's Guide to Saying 'No'

You never want to be that person who is known for always saying yes to a loan, a favor, and other impossible-to-do or inconvenient-for-you requests.

So I got a call from a high school classmate recently, and at first, I was excited since I hadn’t heard from her in a long while, but then our exchange became very strange and then very awkward. After a brief catch-up, she asked very suddenly if I wanted to join her new business venture, a multi-step French skincare system made for millennials. 

“It is highly profitable, Si-si. My sister—you remember Marie, right?—just bought a Lambo with her earnings. You will love it.” 

“I see...”

“And, aside from investing in the business, we also have these fun meet-ups. We must invite all our friends and tell them all about it, too! I’m sure our old circle would love to hear that you’ve joined—and then they will join!” 

Now, I am not the type of person who, because of a strange desire not to offend or always please others, agrees to everything and says yes to everyone, and so I told my old friend: “Dear Ghost from the Past, the offer sounds promising, but I must decline.”

But then, she pressed on, proclaiming how easy it would be for me, a Truly Rich Lady, to make a fortune with my spare change! At this point, I brought out the big guns: “Old Friend, I must go now, because my foot hurts. But good night and good luck.”

Readers, how do you handle situations where you have to decline something or deny someone. Do you bend to peer pressure and just go with it? Or do you, like I, just say “no?”


While there can be many scenarios when you will be inclined to declare “no”—an invitation to a dress-up party that insists you come in “White Holiday Fantasia,” an invitation to a date with a person who looks like a munchkin, or even an invitation to eat cake when you are on a very specific purple diet—there is really only three ways to do it:

Say the word “no” or an equivalent expression. Say it with courtesy or respect. And also be firm about it.


Just Say No

The trickiest part is the first part, the saying of “no.” This, for most people, feels dirty because they don’t want to be the bad person (the Grinch, the party pooper, the snob, the weirdo) and they don’t want to make the other party feel bad.

But what’s is so bad about saying “no” when that is exactly how you feel and also when saying “yes” will actually make you feel bad? Attending a dinner party when you don’t feel like it is never fun. Ditto on the date and the cake. Consider, too, that if I had been a person who lacks will and courage, I would have been duped by this pyramid scheming ghost and left with a lighter wallet (never mind that it would have been “spare change”).

The clearest and cleanest way to decline anything you are unwilling or unable to do is by saying what might be the most powerful word in the world: “No.”

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Member of the Board: “Si-si, since you’re already doing the food for the benefit, can you also take care of the table setting? Please?”

Me: “No.” 

Respectfully, No

I am going to admit that I may have been flippant and dismissive when I turned down my high school classmate, so please do as I say and not as I do! Just file my creative method (“I can't go because I need to feed my cat!”) as an advanced move that can only be executed if you are really, really in a bind.

Otherwise, remember your manners and accompany your dissent with words that will leave the other party satisfied.


  1. Turning down a party invitation: “I am so honored that you have included me on your exclusive guest list, but I am unavailable on that day. But I hope the party goes excellently!”
  2. Turning down an honorary position at Most Important Charity: “Thank you for considering me, but I can not accept your invitation at this moment. Please ask me again next year.”
  3. Turning down a request for assistance at work: “I am not available to do it right now, but let me refer you to someone who may be able to help you.”
  4. Turning down a friend's request for a loan: “I hope you don't feel bad when I say that I don't think this is a good idea. But please let me know how else I can help.”

No, No, No

If you notice, my examples do not really expound on the reasons behind the “no,” because it really is self-explanatory. Do not be pressured to explain your decision, because you will end up sounding indecisive as you search your mind for the perfect alibi for not attending the year-end country club party (yet again). I also suggest following up your “no” with the deafening sound of silence to underline your intent.


We come to the last hurdle: Sticking to your decision. Don't be swayed by guilt (“You know, everyone else volunteered their time for the party. So...”) or moved by emotion (“But I really need a loan to help rehabilitate my diminished flower garden. Those poor lilies...”) or beguiled by flattery (“You are the only one that can make this happen! Please...”).

You never want to be that person who is known for always saying yes to a loan, a favor, and other impossible-to-do or inconvenient-for-you requests. Remember: A pushover you are not.

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C.C. Coo
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