The Art of Saying "No"

Darryl Bachmeier
Mar 19, 2020

Saying “no” to any proposal, invitation or offer may be quite hard sometimes, even if you have a really good reason to refuse. Many people are finding themself in a situation when they cannot reject any offer because of the authority, social status, and dominant behaviour of the requestor. Is there any possibility to learn how to give a confident refusal? Sure there is!

Mix it With a Compliment or Kindness

That is the ultimate weapon of every grandparent and parent. “I love you, but you cannot,” sounds much better and polite than just a dry, “I said no.” When you are combining different kinds of compliments, which are perceived positively, with refusing, which are unpleasant for most people, you get a “somewhere in between” result.

Example: This sounds extraordinarily interesting, but unfortunately, I have to refuse.

Example: You gave a brilliant idea, but it seems that I cannot handle it.

Give a Couple of Reasons

When you are replying to any request with just a “no”, it may look just offensive and disrespectful to many people. This is especially for a person who you are subordinate, like your boss, for example. It will help if you provide a few valuable reasons in addition to your refusal.

Examples: I have to reject this opportunity, as I already have a few big projects with deadlines this week.

Example: Due to my contract terms, I cannot work more than 40 hours a week in the office, so, sorry, but no.

Try to Be Brief, But Not Rude

Sometimes the best way to say no in the most effective way is to be extremely brief. However, you must be careful as many people may think be offended when you give them a short, straight to the point refusal. Therefore, your goal is to find the perfect middle point where you will not be rude, and at the same time, your no will not take a lot of time to hear and say.

Bad example: I will not do that.

Good example: Unfortunately, I will not do that. Sorry.

When you use words like sad, sadly, unfortunately, etc. your response feels that you feel bad when refusing their proposition, and that refusing brings you no joy. It will help to maintain relationships with them in the future.

Try to Leave a Back Door

Often there are situations when you are not about to say no, but rather prefer to take more time to think. In that case, you should show your appreciation and ask for more time for you to make a decision. It is not necessary to say to your requestor why you need more time, just give him a general understanding that you are interested in his proposition, but it is not the right time.

Example: It is an exciting proposition, but can we please discuss it tomorrow at the same time? I will get in touch with you!

Example: Your proposal seems excellent, but now is not the right time to discuss it. When can I contact you to get more details?

Try to Offer Some Alternative Ways

There are also situations that occur when the propositions you get does not quite match your skills, wishes, plans, etc. Instead of refusing outright you may want to provide an alternative.

Example: Sounds interesting, but what if we try to do it in my way? Let me explain what I mean.

Example: Sadly, but I cannot do it due to a lack of experience in using this particular program. However, what if I recommend you the proper specialist?

Why it’s Important to Know How to Say No

Saying no in the right way is much easier than it looks. When you master this skill, you will start to notice how easier, more pleasant and comfortable your life will become. You will probably get more free time, begin to obtain more projects that are interesting and provide inspiration for you to complete, find out that there is many different ways to do what you want, but not to go about other’s requests.

Whenever you learn how to say no in a proper way, you will automatically understand all the benefits of it. It would be best if you began with a small thing, and, for example, refuse to bring a cup of coffee to your disrespective colleague or print some document instead of them. Only a few months of regularly using these tips will make you a different person.

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