There are times that saying no is the best thing you can do. It’s one way to avoid over-committing and save your sanity. We don’t want to disappoint or let people down. And yet, you can’t say yes to everything and be effective. You can say no and still sound like a responsible, easy-to-work-with, accommodating professional.
For starters, don’t rush in. Tell the person you need some time to think about his or her request and let them know when you will get back to them. You don’t need to reply in the moment. I often regret things I agree to without thinking through the request thoroughly. Consider what you really want and are willing to do.
How to Say No – Option One: Simply say no.
Example: “I really appreciate you asking me to coordinate the company party. I’m not able to do that. Can I recommend someone else who has the expertise and will do a great job?”
Don’t give a bunch of reasons for saying no. People aren’t interested in why we can or can’t do something. They just want to know if we will do it.
How to Say No – Option Two: Agree and negotiate the time frame.
Example: “I’d be happy to do that. I can’t do it before the last week of the month. Would that work for you?” If the answer is no, negotiate further. Ask, “When do you really need it? Given that I can’t meet your timeline, who else can work on this in tandem or instead of me?”
Be realistic and consider your other priorities. Get clear about how this new request will affect your other commitments before replying.
How to Say No – Option Three: Agree and negotiate the deliverables.
Example: “I can’t do _______. But I can do ________. How would that work?”
Ask questions about what they really need to have done. Clarifying the scope of work required and their conditions of satisfaction can help both of you.
Saying no is always hard. But it’s better to say no than to ignore requests, or to say yes and do nothing. I would much prefer others make responsible refusals, than to give irresponsible acceptances.