Living Well: Learning to Say No

One of the most transformational skills in our careers (and life) is saying no to requests that do not truly support or inspire us.

Though it’s easy to feel like we need to say yes to people we encounter for various social reasons, this belief is often untrue. We are in charge of what we permit in our lives. Though people may try to ask a lot of us, we are ultimately proactive individuals who determine what we do with our time, attention, and talent.

When an opportunity comes our way, the question is simple: Does this request make me feel excited or further my goals?

If agreeing to the request leaves you feeling resentful and it’s within your power to decline, it’s time to find the best way to say “no.”

Yet the art of saying no can be difficult to attempt, let alone master. As women, it’s easy to feel obligated to say yes to things that we’d rather turn down so that we don’t come off as cold, rude, or insulting.

But when done well, saying no can be far from mean. There is a way to communicate a negative response in a way that leaves the other person feeling valued and heard.

Here are three friendly “no” responses:

Not This Way
Sometimes a request is simply too large for us to take on. Perhaps we don’t have the time, resources, or interest in the entirety of the project.

In these situations it can often be best to simply adjust the request to the parameters we feel more comfortable with. Instead of agreeing to a guest post with 20 in-depth questions, you could ask them to select their top six questions for your interview. Or, perhaps you agree to watch your sister’s child for one day instead of the whole weekend.

Another way to say “not this way” is to refer the person to someone who may be interested in the full scope of their request. If you have a client who can not afford your graphic design rates, you can refer them to two or three other graphic designers who may be able to accommodate their budget.

Not Right Now
Another option when saying no is to say “not right now.”

If you are up to your ears in work during your busy season, it’s completely reasonable to ask for non-time sensitive requests to be approached in three months.

If a non-profit asks for you to donate your services to their charity auction, it is acceptable to politely decline and ask them to check back with you the following year. You aren’t saying no forever, you are saying no at this point in time.

No, Thank You
And last but not least, it is always okay to just say no.

You don’t have to give excuses, rationalizations, or white lies. You just don’t.

However, you can thank them for thinking of you. You can thank them for asking. Something like, “Thank you so much for reaching out and asking me about x, y, and z! Though I will politely decline, I wish you so much success with this exciting new project,” goes a long way.

Sometimes “how” you say no is more important than the no itself. Make sure your no’s are kind, considerate, and as helpful as possible.

This post was contributed by Jess Lively, a consultant and blogger helping people design lives, homes, and businesses with intention on and