Just simply say "no, sorry"
Once you start giving your reasoning, the other side can negotiate a compromise or attempt to persuade you into thinking your no is a bad idea. The more information you provide, the more they can use it against you.
If you don't have time for that, just end it at no and say no more.
Prying is socially hostile and should be responded to as such.
In certain cases of ongoing, and contentious, relationships, sooner.
Realize that the other person is free to ask anything they want, but just the act of them asking doesn't create any obligation on your part. Especially with people where you don't have a longstanding relationship, you don't owe anyone anything more than a polite no.
The other piece I learned was this useful phrase to deploy when under severe pressure to give a reason and for whatever reason you can't just disengage or leave: "Sorry, I'm just not comfortable with that". No one can reasonably argue with that, and if they do, having already given your reason you can then simply fall back into a loop of "No, sorry."
It's like going to knife-fighting class to learn how to win every knife fight and receive "buy a gun" advice. Yes, it works. But it's not really a knife-fighting skill, is it?
WRT GP's comment, what they described is communication. It's precise communication. Saying exactly what you mean and nothing more. Not falling to some kind of instinctive save-face pressure and inventing a bullshit reason, that only leaves you worse off (you now either have to defend from your interlocutor's attempts at helping you, or admit that you've lied).
(To use a knife-fighting analogy, it's like learning to thrust without making it easy for your opponent to dodge your attack and cut you up.)
Saying no "up," and saying no, "down," are very different things. Receiving a "no," from above or below are very different as well. Responding with an open ended question or a direct question are also the next moves.
Down: "Thank you, this is not a priority for me/us, I will get in touch if that changes."
Up: "Absolutely agree! In terms of priority, would you prefer it in this unacceptable state, this unacceptable timeframe, or for me to use this new unacceptable authority over these resources?"
"Sorry, not interested at this time" is almost always enough. If they write back asking "when", just ignore.
In a perfect world, that should be all that needs to be said. In reality, people and emotions are complicated.
Most of these examples aren't that great, and it could've been delivered as a blog post.
> Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it to [Event] on [date]. But thanks again for sending an invitation my way.
That's not saying "No". That's giving an excuse as to why you can't make it. Better to say "No, I'm not interested" or something along those lines.
However I do see how these can be useful as a reference point, I especially like the templates/examples that have a little story behind them. Saying no "like a pro" isn't about the exact phrasing, but knowing that you can and often should say no.
She was furious and told me I was "damaging the culture."
Remove phone nr from signature and hit send
Simple, to the point, takes 3 seconds to copy/paste and help recruiters to move on to the next person.
If I was a recruiter I think I'd rather receive a rejection email than no answer.
> Unfortunately, I’m not able to attend because of prior scheduling—but please keep me updated with action items I may be able to help with.
Way to make yourself a doormat.
I have literally never offered to take on action items from a meeting I don't plan to attend, even by implication as here, and I'm certainly not about to start now.
Of course I'm happy to help people but they need to ask explicitly and specifically because, at the end of the day, we're all pretty busy.