How to Say No and Still Be the Nice Guy

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Many times in our daily lives, we face situations, where we should say "no" to a request. However, we find it to be a very difficult thing to do.

We are afraid to think what others are saying if we decline. We might also think that saying "no" will hurt our relationship with that other person – permanently.

In most of the cases, those fears are unnecessary. They are just our imagination and in reality, nothing scary will happen, if we turn a request down.

Why you should decline from a request

There are many reasons why you should decline to do something, if you are being asked to.

Increased productivity
Saying "no" will increase your productivity, because you are not accepting any new work that would possibly distract you. Also, you are able to focus to your current tasks better, which ensures that they get done.

Keep the deadlines
You are much more likely to keep your deadlines if you say "no".

For example, if you are about to deliver some work to a client, you want to keep the agreed deadlines. Saying "yes" to an external request might potentially increase your workload so much, that you don't have enough capability of handling all the work in time.

You are in control of your life
If you have difficulties of saying "no", then in the worst case others may take advantage of your kindness.

However, if you decide to say "no", you are in control your life – not others. You decide what task to accept, what meetings to attend or what activities to participate on your free-time.

You are true to your core values
We all have core values that we live our life by. For example, honesty is one of those values that is very important for me. That's why I would find difficult to commit to an activity, which requires me to lie.

Your inner voice will most likely advice you to say "no", whenever your values are going to be violated.

Less stress
Closely related to productivity, saying "no" is also one way of decreasing your stress levels. When you are not overloaded with work and tight schedules, you have much less stress to handle.

That in turn affects positively to your well-being and happiness.

The right way to decline

Now that you learned about the benefits of saying "no", you should also understand the different ways of saying "no" the right way.

These are the ways I have used myself. Although I'm not saying that declining becomes effortless by applying these tips, it still becomes easier.

1. Evaluate the situation
When someone comes to you and asks you to do something, you have to evaluate the situation first.

Obviously, if the situation is critical and the other person is depending on your help (for example in a traffic accident), then it is natural to answer "yes".

However, in normal, everyday situations the request is most likely much less severe (your colleague asks you to come for a drink after work), so you have both the options "yes" and "no" at your disposal.

Also, you most likely have more time to come up with a justification why you are going to say "no".

2. Be discreet, but firm
I tend to start my "no" answer in the form of "Unfortunately I'm unable to "¦" and then follow with the justification, why I'm not able to fulfill the request.

The main point here is to say "no" in a polite, but firm manner. Some people are very rude in their replies when they decline and that kind of behavior leaves me cold every time.

Although in those cases the message (denial) comes very clear, I still prefer the softer and more polite way of saying things.

3. Say your opinion clearly enough
Truly mean what you say. Your answer should be a definite "no", not a "maybe". Don't leave other people wondering what you mean by your answer.

Say your answer in a clear and loud enough manner, so that the other person understands your point at once.

4. Be honest
When you say "no", be honest with your reasonings. Don't make up reasons why you are not willing to fulfill the request. When you are caught lying, it is embarrassing to yourself.

Also, if the other person happens to be your colleague or friend that you lied to, it will have negative consequences to your relationships.

5. Be selfish
This last point is perhaps the most important one when it comes to saying "no". The thing is that

if the other person has a right to present you a request, you have the equal right to say "no" as an answer.

Also, you should also reflect your own situation to that request before you answer; Are you willing to fully commit to it, does it fit to your schedules and are you capable of handling the request in the first place.


I try to keep these tips and techniques as my guidelines when I evaluate a request "“ and when I decide to say "no".

It is understandable, that saying "no" is not the easiest thing to do at times. But at the same time, if you are polite and honest, it is much easier this way.

However, this doesn't mean that I'm saying "no" all the time. In fact, sometimes you have to say "yes" as an answer. This depends of course from the situation you are in.

By carefully evaluating the situation first before answering, is the right way to move on in that that scenario.

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About the author

Timo Kiander

Timo Kiander, a.k.a. Productive Superdad, helps entrepreneurs improve their online business productivity. With 18 co-authors (Pat Flynn, Corbett Barr and Steven Aitchison to name a few), he wrote a book about how to build an online business and get stuff done - even when working from 9-5 (available as a free download or through Amazon).