How To Say No Without Saying No


How many times have you been in a situation where you really want to say no to a request, event, or task? You’ve been asked to serve on a committee by a close friend. You really don’t want to add anything more to your plate, but this is a good friend who is asking for your help. So, you reluctantly say yes.  

Of course, you could always say “I can’t take this on right now” or “I truly don’t think I would do the committee justice with my already full schedule.” We expect someone close to us would understand and move on to the next person. That isn’t always the case. How many times have you heard their response coming back that they are just going to add your name, there is no commitment, and to just do what you can? It is difficult as a people-pleaser to stick to your guns and continue to say no for fear of letting people down. 

At the office, saying no too much can give the connotation that you are closed-minded and not willing to make changes. In work situations, we do need to take some time to truly think about the possibility of alternative options before giving a definitive no answer. When you take time to think about the situation at hand, you are giving yourself time to consider alternative suggestions in order to negotiate what could be best for your department or company. In this process, you are allowing for negotiation between you and the requestor without giving a hard no. 

When all else fails and no is inevitable, it’s easiest to be apologetic. This could sound something like this: 

“I’m concerned that if we do X for this project, it will slow down the process for XY department to follow up. Why don’t we look at other processes we can do in advance of the project coming to our team? If we need to set additional standards, I would really appreciate it if you would take the lead.”   

Some of us just need to start saying no to requests because we figure we can fit everything into our schedule. By taking the softer approach, it allows you to still come off as approachable and supportive for future requests. 

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