Tips for Saying No


The University of California in San Francisco recently completed a research study that showed the harder it is for you to say no, the more stress, burnout, and even depression you may experience. Here are a few tips to make saying no a little easier:

First: Say it fast. The longer you wait to say no the harder it becomes. Using wishy washy answers like I don’t know, I’m not sure and let me get back to you increase your stress level. So tip number one is to say no quickly.

Tip number two: Use the thank them and short decline method. One of the big mistakes people make when they say no is launching into long, super detailed reasons as to why they need to say no. Help yourself out by making a list of nice, short, general statements you can use to say no. For example:

  • Thank you for asking, unfortunately that’s not going to work.

  • I’m so honored you thought of me, but no. I’m not taking on any new projects at this time.

  • What a lovely invitation, I’m so sorry we are unable to attend.

  • Thank you for reaching out, but we are unable to donate at this time.

Tip number three: Say no, then propose an alternative. For example, you may know a colleague you think would do a great job and can recommend them for the project or assignment:

  • Thank you for asking, but I’m not available. Have you reached out to John? I think he would be a dynamite addition to your team.

Number four: Stand firm - once you say no, stick to it. Avoid backtracking or starting to talk yourself into how maybe you could do it. If you know that you want to say no, then say it and stand firm.

And a final tip is that sometimes you can use no as an opportunity to empower someone. People in committees or on work teams often expect you to keep doing what you’ve always done. You can use no as an opportunity to empower someone else to step up to new responsibility. For example:

  • Jill, I know you are capable of handling all of the publicity this year, why don’t you take the ball and run with it.

I hope you’ll find some of these tips useful in learning how to say no. Remember, when you say no to one thing, you are opening yourself up to say YES to something else.


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