How To Say No
By Karyn Greenstreet
copyright © 2008, by Karyn Greenstreet. All rights reserved.
Would you babysit my pet tarantula next week? No.
Is it okay if I bring my twelve cousins to your birthday party? No.
Can we extend our contract for six months but not increase the price? No.
Sometimes saying No is easy. But recent discussions in my Mastermind group remind me that finding the right words to say No can trip us up. And without the right words, we sometimes say Yes when we don't mean it, causing stress, frustration and bad feelings.
In our group, we brainstormed a lot of ways to say No, depending on the given circumstances and what type of No we wanted to give. Here are some suggestions. While these are business-related, you can modify them for personal use as well:
When No means: No
- I can't take on your project at this time
- I'm not accepting any new clients
- I'm not comfortable doing what you're asking
- I'm not willing to do what you're asking
- I'm not the right person for the job
- I have other commitments that prevent me from doing this
- We have a policy in our business that we don't do that
- My schedule is so busy and I'm committed to work/life balance
- Right now my priority is X and everything else I'm declining
- I'm not able to take on that type of responsibility
- Our original agreement was for X; I'm not willing to change that agreement mid-stream
- I have an appointment that I can't reschedule
- I want to spend more time doing (fill in the blank)
- I don't enjoy that work
- My decision is final
- I won't go
When No means: I can't do X, but I can offer Y instead
- I'm not comfortable doing X, but I'm available to do Y within certain parameters
- I'm not really qualified to do this work, but I can recommend an excellent person who might be able to help you
- I'd rather work on Y
- I'd rather do it this way than the way you are suggesting
- I can't do this myself, but I can ask my assistant to do it for you as long as it only takes 30 minutes like you promised
- That's too little money for this type of work, how about Y?
When No means: I can't do it now, but I can do it later
- I'm not accepting any new clients until September
- Can we schedule this for next week instead?
- I’m booked solid for August
- This Wednesday is really bad for me
- I don't work on Fridays
- I need to leave work by 5:00
And, of course, there's the always-useful, plain old fashioned No. As in, Just Say No. Without preamble, without excuses, without guilt.
(This works very well on large orange cats who like to sit on top of your paperwork while you're trying to work…except if it's dinnertime.)