Leadership Living Well

How to Say No–The Right Way

No is a word that many of us hate hearing, but almost all of us have a hard time saying.

However, when you’re a leader and you know that there are many constraints on your time, you have to know how to say it and how to say it the right way so as not to damage relationships or feelings.

Has anyone ever emailed you and asked you for something that you didn’t would to do–or sincerely couldn’t? Maybe you felt bad and didn’t want to let that person down, so you said yes half-heartedly or, worse, didn’t answer?

To avoid that situation, take a look at the following examples and try to adapt this technique to your life. It’s a technique known as yes-no-yes.


Question: Will you write me a letter of recommendation? It’s due tomorrow.

How to Say No the Right Way: That job sounds like a great fit for you! I am so happy to hear that you’re going for it! I would love to give you a letter of recommendation, but because of the short deadline and the demands on my time, I am unable to write one for you! However, I’d love it if you’d include my contact information so that I can serve as a reference to this job or any future opportunities.


Question: Will you financially sponsor my event?

How to Say No the Right Way: I’m so honored that you reached out to me for this. It sounds like an incredible event for a wonderful cause. However, at this time, I’m not able to make that kind of a financial commitment to you. That said, I would love to offer a small donation. If you plan on having the event again next year, let’s be in touch and discuss sponsoring next year’s event in early January–when I make my yearly budget.


Question: Can you dog sit for me?

How to Say No the Right Way: Thanks for thinking of me! Although you know I love you and your dog, I don’t know that I’m comfortable with that level of responsibility with another person’s pet. So, unfortunately, I have to decline. Have you heard of the kennel near town? Several of my friends highly recommend it!
See how much better those are than an awkward, half-hearted yes or no answer at all? Direct and kind responses are the way to go. 

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