The Nicest “NO” Ever

The Nicest “NO” Ever

We are hosting two guests for all of Shabbat, but we don’t have a guest room. So this past week I’ve been looking all around for a family that can host them for sleeping. That means that this week I have been on the receiving end of a large number of “No’s.”

But when I received the “No” below I felt right away that it was in a different league from all the other “No’s” I’ve received this week.

The other “No’s” were delivered in a kind and gracious way that didn’t make me feel bad. But the following “No” from a certain Nachlaot Tsadekes (who wishes to remain anonymous) actually left me feeling good!

This is what she wrote:

Hey jenny,
Sounds lovely and it’s great you asked. We are already having sleepover guests this Shabbat though… Might be a bit tricky. Hope they can find another arrangement. If not please let me know and I’ll see what we can do.
:), [her name]

This “No” left me feeling so good, in fact, that I even printed it up and plan to keep it in my drawer so I can emulate the author’s Nicest No whenever I need to deliver a Nice No myself.

After doing some careful textual analysis of this Nicest No, I think the secret of its success is four-fold:

1. Starts with praising me for asking her a favor: “Sounds lovely and it’s great you asked.” She makes me feel that I have done HER a favor by asking her a favor.

2. Implies “No,” but doesn’t actually say No: “We are already having sleepover guests this Shabbat though… Might be a bit tricky.” She doesn’t have room for my guests, but she doesn’t say that exactly. She just says “Might be a bit tricky.” So I understand she’s saying “No,” but I don’t have to endure the inevitable discomfort of actually being told “No way, Jose.”

3. Offers to help me out anyway: “Hope they can find another arrangement. If not please let me know and I’ll see what we can do.” I don’t think I would ask her for help, but it’s a good feeling to know that, at least in theory, I’m not all on my own in this (hitherto completely unsuccessful) search for sleeping arrangements for my two guests.

4. Smile: And of course, we should never forget, the honey that helps the medicine go down, and sweetens every “Yes” “No” or “Maybe” Email of every kind:



  1. Thank you! Great of you for posting this.

  2. The only problem is the “let me know if I can help out.” I used to say this all the time. Then someone new moved into the community. After being on the receiving end of chessed, she told me her analyzations. She told me that many people living here say that but they’re not serious. People are constantly saying, ‘Call me if you need anything’. Then when she comes up with something she needs, they seem surprised that she’s calling and usually say no. Don’t we always end with “and let me know if I can be of more help”. Imagine the person calling you back and asking for more help – that’s not usually what we mean!

    I am sure this wonderful tzadeikes really did mean this, but most of the time, people don’t mean it.

    Since this woman told me this, I have been so so careful to not say “call me if you need anything” if I am not really able to give someone “anything”. I also have been trying to offer the exact help that I can give. Instead of saying, “You must be having a hard time, let me know what I can do”, I’ll say instead – “Do you want to send your 2 year old over to me for the afernoon and I can watch him.” It is wonderful to be given a specific thing that you can say yes to someone for, because then they actually take you up on this! Otherwise, we all know most people say, “Thank you for offering your help” and then they never call you! If you give them a specific help that you can do – “can I make you a salad for Shabbos?”, then you know they’ll take you up on it – and it really is a big help!

  3. I wish you would have posted this 2 days ago so that i would have been in a better position to answer the same request.

  4. We have a guest room, are we too far???

  5. I agree with Sara, suggesting that if you still need something let me see what I can do…she just may call, asking for help after all, then you are in a pickle. perhaps suggesting one thing that you can do, like maybe I can call two people to see if they can help alleviating all the burden on you, is realistic and doable. don’t stick your foot in your mouth…be honest, but helpful at the same time doing a small, realistic positive act of chesed

  6. I agree with Naomi… I used to say this type of “no” all the time, until I realized that I wasn’t really able to follow through with the implications of these things (not to say that this is this woman’s problem, but I, personally, had an issue w/ saying “no”.) I used to think that this was a bad thing, this “no” business! Today I would, for example, not say “might be tricky” b/c some pple would call you and ask you to squeeze a few more pple in, and then you’d find out that what you meant to say was “I don’t think it’ll be possible” and not “it might be tricky.” There are people who need limits clearly spelled out to them, and one should know that the biggest chessed is making your boundaries clear and giving when you can really give! The “I’ll see what I can do” should also really only be used if you see yourself having time to do that. What if you can’t offer any “specific” suggestion to help them? When you really shouldn’t offer anything b/c it’ll come at the expense of the bigger chessed- husband and kids….it’s always easier to do chessed outside of the house, but also the wrong priority (in my opinion). Overall, I’ve learned that giving with clear boundaries and saying no clearly when you can’t help are the biggest acts of chessed you can do! If you say “no” when you can’t help then people know that your “yes” has true meaning.

  7. We also have a guest room (one bed) and a couch that opens to two beds.
    But I have a feeling that we’re a bit far…

  8. this may be my mishegas but is there not a problem inviting people if we don’t have the room to host them? I’m not comfortable at all with that idea, not as host nor as guest, unless the guests were to be hosted by someone else they knew for sleeping arrangements. It’s great to be the hostess, but it’s important to think like the guest….

  9. the truth is that I almost never host sleepover guests, since it’s extremely hard time finding places for people to sleep in my neighborhood and we don’t have a guest room. This was a special situation though– I wanted to host the daughter of a very faithful reader whom I have been corresponding with for quite a few years. The daughter is here for a year in sem and the mother asked me a few times if the daughter could come for shabbat and each time it had fallen through, so I really wanted to make it happen.

    but in general, I don’t see what the problem is with inviting guests for sleeping as long as you make sure to find them a place. In fact, that is the norm on the rare occasions when we go away for shabbat. With nine of us, we really need an entire apartment to ourselves, so our hosts generally find us the apartment of a couple that is going away. This is standard and common practice in many communities.

    • I didn’t want to criticise, but maybe a viable option is for one of your own children to vacate a bed (as was done for me as a guest once, and as I have done for others). Of course we are talking about singles, not families…. Just a thought. Not entirely fair to comment on the way others refuse for whatever reason if you take something upon yourself that you can’t actually provide…

      • i was planning to have them sleep in my kids’ beds, but the way our house is set up would mean that anywhere we’d put them they wouldn’t have any privacy. In the end, the guests ended up staying with somebody with a guestroom who commented on this post! Maybe what I need to explain is that we have a very squished house–9 people in four rooms, and there are some people around with bigger homes WITH guest rooms. So I thought that would be the most comfortable option for them and us.

        I think that there were also personal considerations that went into this decision not to host overnight guests, feel free to email me privately if you want to get the inside scoop:)

  10. BTW, I have totally been giving awesome “no”s since this article! Every time I need to say no now, I stop and think and say it in such a nice roundabout way! (and I am careful not to offer help that I know I won’t be able to give if they follow up…) Thanks for this reminder:)

  11. Hi Chana,
    Your experience reminded me of my experieces in my community. I’m on a committee that organizes meals for people in various situations (sickness, shiva, etc) and while there are, BH, many many people who are more than willing to help, occasionally someone says no. Sometimes the timing is wrong and sometimes there are other issues. Almost always the person expresses regret that they can’t help, often to the point that I have to reassure them that it’s ok that they don’t help this time. Mi k’Amcha Yisrael!

Leave a Reply

Follow by Email