TORONTO -- "No" may seem like a simple word, but for some, it can be tricky to say.

However, etiquette expert Julie Blais Comeau says that there are ways to say "no" with tact and grace in common scenarios with family, friends and co-workers.

In the event an entrepreneurial neighbour or friend is trying to sell you something you don't want, Comeau suggests saying no right away without delay, otherwise they'll surely come back again and again. She said it is important to decline, but do it in a way that also commends their initiative.

"Right away, you're going to decline, and you're going to start by stating something like, 'Oh, it's so aligned with you, you have such beautiful skin, you’re so organized' and you're going to state that you already have everything that you need, or that you'd like to shop for that," Comeau told CTV's Your Morning on Thursday.

"But you'll congratulate them on having the courage to start their own business," she added.

Comeau said every Canadian should also be prepared for friends asking to borrow money.

"Let's put in place a personal policy such as 'I never lend money to people outside of my family,' or 'I just can't afford to ever lend money'," Comeau said.

But if you do lend money, Comeau cautions: be prepared not to get it back.

"To do this, to go ahead and lend to that person -- just forget about it. Be prepared to lend an amount that you're never going to see again," Comeau said.

When it comes to saying "no" to invitations for gatherings and events, Comeau notes the added complication of COVID-19 safety concerns.

Comeau said that it is important to note when saying "no" that if there wasn't a global health crisis, the RSVP would be "yes."

"You're going to state that if this was not COVID times… that you would so be there. And you are going to state that you're going to disappoint them. You're also going to say that you too are disappointed, but raincheque for maybe some kind of virtual activity or raincheque for when we can celebrate together very, very soon we hope," Comeau said.

However, Comeau said those commitments have to be honoured.

"We need to have integrity in our relationships… So be sincere and honour your words," she said.


When saying "no" to one's boss, Comeau said there are more factors to consider. She says employees must take note of their role and their responsibilities in relation to their boss’ request to evaluate if it is in fact OK to say "no."

For example, Comeau said it is OK to decline a request to work late if one already has after-work plans.

"If you have a previous commitment, don't go on and on about the reason -- just state it," she said. Comeau added that the employee also shouldn’t feel guilty if they have to say "no" because they are struggling with work-life balance while working from home.

"We know that that balance right now with people teleworking coast-to-coast, it's a lot more challenging and bosses should be cognizant of that," she said.

If one's boss is continually asking them to work late, Comeau said it may be wise for the employee to request a meeting with their employer to analyze their expectations during the work day.

Comeau said learning to say "no" is important in order to maintain one’s mental health, especially when working from home.

"Just because we're home, doesn't mean that we have to work all the time. So let's really think about this one and have empathy for our employees, our superiors, our colleagues and let's really take into consideration our requests and make it realistic for that balance," Comeau said.