How to say “NO.” The comeback reply that will change your life by M Theresa Brown

Change your life? Wow, that’s a big claim!  But it’s true 🙂

All of my articles come from my actual experiences or are areas of interest to other artists.  This is one article where my reply is from the “real life” experiences group and putting this advice into practice WILL , directly and indirectly, change your life!

SInce that is a tall order,  I probably have your attention 🙂 , so  I will start at the beginning of this article with the discussion that started it all:  a photographer/ artist who cannot say “No” and the resulting conflict and fallout she is experiencing….
From the artist “Mary”:

I have a question how to deal with artists asking if they can use your photos for their art. I used to share my photos with artists happily, until a company I did some art for happened to see a painting by another artist that I allowed to use the same photo I did for the company’s project, they rejected my art then and I lost a months income. So I haven’t shared my photos since (and I feel like a heel! I hate saying no).

I just did an amazing photo shoot with 6 of the most beautiful stallions so I could paint them and the owners of the stallions have been putting the pics on facebook (with my blessing). I have had artists asking if they can use my photos and when I explained why I can’t and I am very sorry now they are offering to pay for rights to use some of the photos. I make my living with my art, I put more $$ than I dare add up into photo equipment, learning to use it all, traveling to places to take the photos, etc. Plus after losing a months salary for letting others paint from my photos in the past….

Chances are that wouldn’t happen again but it could, so even if I sold rights to some photos that means I couldn’t use them myself, and how much would I charge anyway, I couldn’t obviously charge a months salary but what would be worth me not being able to paint from my own photo? Yet I feel like I’m being a snit saying no. Sigh. Plus I imagine the horse owners would like to see other art of their horses too although they have said it’s up to me and also they have other photos they’ve taken themselves they let artists use.

What would you guys handle this? I am not sure if I’m looking at it all right. And how would you say no I am not good at that.   Thanks!” Mary”


If you make a living at your art, then you already know the answer 🙂 You have nothing to apologize for. A simple and cheerful, “Gee I would love to but I can’t” with no additional explanations ends it all.
For every hard working artist out there, there are 50 who want the same results with no effort on their part so don’t punish yourself psychologically for being successful!


Thank you Theresa, you are right.
There are a few artists who are being nice but not taking no for an answer, offering other ways around it to get some of the pics.  I do feel bad because I remember what it was like before I got the camera stuff and lusted after other peoples photos but come to think of it I never was able to get permission to use those either!
And for good reason.
I will be more clear in the beginning in the future to help avoid the uncomfortable situations.
Not sure about your phrase? Mary

LOL  “Mary”

The “I wish I could but I can’t”  phrase followed by a PERIOD (in your mind) is a brilliant reply that I did not dream up. So it is important enough to explain fully. Practice, practice and practice it until it comes easily…..and note the period at the end? Do NOT say a word beyond it.  This single phrase works with EVERYONE and under every circumstance. It is learning to put it into action that is hard as always giving a reason or explanations of why we cannot do something is so ingrained in us!

I saw it in action with two men years ago where the man wanting the favor was a conniving individual who never took NO for an answer. IF you made the mistake (and we all do) of saying “No, sorry”  followed by your reasons, then he had a comeback for every reason (no matter how good) and you wound up agreeing in the end. And paying the consequences for it.

But in this case the man he was up against was his match in the most amazing way! He was able to refuse a request twice and  do it in a pleasant and smiling way! He simply replied to the first request with

“I wish I could but I can’t.”

And said NO more… reasons, no explanations…nothing.

Well, there was a pause (I am watching this now)  and the requester re-grouped quickly (how do you reply with reason with someone when they gave you no reason?) and tried again….this time the reply was another big smile, a gentle “man slap” on the back as the men turned to walk in another direction, as the replier said in a conversational, personal and “impossible to get mad at” voice,

“Like I said, “John”, I wish I could but I can’t”.

That ended it and I was so amazed that 25 years later I share it with everyone because IT WILL WORK EVERY TIME!

Even if the requester says bluntly (or even gets annoyed which is rare unless it’s your kids), “Why Not?”, another “Because I can’t” stops it completely!

But be warned…explaining WHY we cannot do a request is a very hard habit to break. Explaining, justifying, apologizing must be in our DNA because all humans do it. (lol-we actually learn this behavior as tiny children) But think of all the situations or people you have avoided over the years because you could not effectively say NO to them, didn’t want to hurt their feelings and  didn’t want to get “sucked into” things again against your will. Because when you do, you beat yourself up over it, become resentful and take it out on everyone else around you.  Right? Well then this will truly change your life!
Why? Because there is no comeback to it!
The KEY is the PERIOD at the end of the sentence. There is NO comeback to it.
Said pleasantly, with a smile or laugh and no hint of exasperation, indecisiveness, or anger, It works!   Use it with deadbeats, zealous group organizers, salesmen, neighbors, and seriously, it will change your life when you discover how easy it is to pleasantly and without offense, say “No” to something that you really do not wish to do 🙂
 At one point I had it by the studio phone and it also stopped solicitors cold….lol-even worked on the PTA ladies, donation requests and yes it even works on the occasional neurotic client 🙂

Just send me a Thank you email the first time you put it into action and see it work…better yet, donate $10.00 to some worthy cause every time it works and they will thank you as their account fills up.  And you will have relieved some of the unecessary stress in your life!


Share This Please



You may also like...