Generally speaking, people can’t say no to someone asking them for something because they are so worried about upsetting the person or lack the courage to turn down the request. People often dislike disagreeing, or believe saying yes is easier than saying no. Others can simply not say no. However, there are often instances where it is best to say no to a request and it is important to learn how to utter that small little word, “no.”

Adopt simple strategies to say no, politely but firmly. You don’t need to cook stories up in order to refuse. You don’t need to offer lame excuses. You can say no without being dishonest.

Look at some of the umpteen ways you can say no:

  • No
  • I can’t accept this, with my present commitments. I’m sorry.
  • I’m rather quite busy now. I must decline.
  • I don’t think I have the time for it, as I am in the middle of something important.
  • After looking at my calendar, I found that I already have prior commitments.
  • No. I would only be able to do a mediocre job right now.
  • No. I don’t have any spare time right now.
  • Not this time, please give me more notice next time and I’ll work it into my schedule.
  • I can’t.
  • Why don’t you try someone else? I’m not the right person for this.

There are a hundred other ways of saying no without feeling uneasy or hurting others by being blunt or even rude. If you aren’t sure, you can always ask for time to make the decision without feeling guilty. You may say you will have to think about it. If somebody persists with the request when you want to say no, you may have to be assertive and firmly decline. You don’t need to risk over committing by saying yes when you actually want to say no.

In extreme cases, people unable to say no to their bosses, who demand much more work than they can reasonably manage to do within a specified time, end up either not doing the job at all or doing it poorly. In either case, they are unnecessarily putting their jobs on the line. If you can show your boss, the reasons for not being able to accept the extra responsibility, you may be able to convince your superior about your inability to accept the additional work.

You can perhaps make a list of all the projects that have already filled your plate. Perhaps you can suggest alternative strategies or others whose workload is lower or competence levels higher for accomplishing that particular piece of work. In any case, don’t accept anything that puts your job at risk or makes you suffer later.

Undoubtedly, learning to say no is a must have skill for everyone. Saying no at the right time can help you to gain respect with your peers and help avoid bitterness from those to have to hear it.

Mark Coburn

Mark has a genuine passion for inspiring people and organisations towards transforming their dreams and goals into reality. His specific areas of focus include leadership development, team building, smarter goal setting, work life balance and interpersonal communication skills for business professionals.

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