Six Kind Ways To Say “No”

Are you bad at saying no?  Do you say yes too often, getting yourself stretched overwhelmingly thin? I have finished reading Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, a book I highly recommend to you. The author, Greg McKeown, included a very helpful “No” repertoire, which is beneficial to everyone who needs to say “no” more often.  If we are truly going to strive for a disciplined pursuit of less, we must become natural at the slow yes and the swift no.

Here are a few of Greg’s ways to say “no” to requests:  (Page 140)

1. The Awkward Pause

This only works in person, but allow the awkward silence after the request has been made.  The person requesting will sense that it’s not optimal and may even help you back out of it before you have to even say “no”.

2. The Soft “No”

This phrase, which often includes, “no, but…” is helpful in letting the person down easy.  If someone wants to meet with you at a certain time, you can say, “no I can’t, but I’ll be happy to meet you at another time after I get thought this heavy workload or season in my life.

3. Let Me Check My Calendar And Get Back To You

Pausing to check your calendar before giving any answer helps build a buffer between the request and response.  It gives you time to think.  It helps the person asking for your time (or whatever they are asking for) realize that you have some priorities. A person can only squeeze so much in.  Checking your calendar affords the time to assess what is important enough to be on your calendar in the first place. After consulting the calendar, a simple, “I’m unavailable at that time” will do.

Essentialism-book-cover4. Use Email Bounce Back

This may be the most acceptable form of “no”. When people leave for vacation or other trips, they let others immediately know they are unavailable.  Why not give this a try during a particularly heavy season of work or ministry.

5. Say No With Humor

“if I say yes, my wife will kill me!” or  “I’ve reached the end of my bandwidth today.”  Or a simple “Nope!” with a smile, “I’m swamped.”

6. I Can’t Do It, But X Might Be Interested

Maybe you have to say “no” but lead them in a direction of another person who may be helpful to them.  Give them a couple contacts. This is a win for you, for the person you recommend, and for the person who is asking!

The art of leadership is saying no.  It’s way too easy to say yes.  When you say yes to one thing, you are, in effect, saying no to something else. You must become quick to say no and slow to say yes.


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