How to say a “No”.

In the last couple of blog posts, we’ve stressed on how important soft skills and communication skills are and, what personality traits are expected of an employee. We have briefly touched upon the importance of having a positive and an assertive personality.

In today’s blog post, we are going to discuss one simple word “NO”. Perhaps, one of the most difficult words to say. The baggage with the word “No” is that it tends to ruin relationships and your image. At the same time, you can not afford to be obsequious employee or a ‘yes man’.

Most of your corporate life is built on your willingness to learn. However, you need to be able to define your boundaries. Know when you’re struggling and when you’re being taken advantage of.


Following are some strategies to say “No” nicely and politely –


  1. Keep your guilt out of it


Your guilt has nothing to do with saying ‘no’. If you are truly busy and it’s impossible to make it to your friend’s birthday, then there is no need to feel guilty. In such a case, you can simply plan something else with him when you’re relatively less busy.


The guilt factor is one of the major reasons why people shy away from saying a ‘no’. In most cases, not saying ‘no’ has worse consequences than refusing.


2. Be true to your faiths and convictions


If you’re asked to go against your beliefs, faiths and convictions, it’s time you reconsider. There’s no harm in being flexible, don’t get us wrong. But you can only be as flexible to you actually break.


Always stand by your principles. You don’t have go out of your way to make others believe in your convictions, but you need to be true to yourself. Only then can you be genuine, which brings us to our next point…


3. Be genuine


Don’t lie because that seems to be the only way to get out of it. If your colleague asks you for help with some presentation, you can simply say –


“Thank you for asking. But unfortunately, I’m quite busy with my project for the quarter. Why don’t you ask XYZ? Maybe he can help you out.”


4. Don’t be rude


As we see in the earlier example, always be polite. Being arrogant or rude can undoubtedly strain the relationship. Try to help by providing a reference whenever possible.

5. Don’t be afraid


Lastly, don’t be afraid that you’ve said a no. You can not always be available or flexible. Remember to not be very hard on yourself. Saying a ‘no’ should be as easy as maintaining a normal conversation.


Just remember these pointers next time you have to refuse. Also, here are some common phrases that you can use instead of a flat ‘no’:


  • I’m not currently available
  • Thanks for asking but (reason)
  • I don’t think I’m qualified to do it. You could ask (XYZ) instead
  • None of those dates work for me. Could I get back to you when I’m available?
  • Thank you, but I think I’ll pass
  • I really appreciate that you asked me, but I have prior commitments
  • Let me tell you what I can do


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