How to say No Politely

April 11, 2021
Personal Branding

Learning to say no is one of the hardest things. Ultimately though, you can’t say yes to everything.

There are times when saying yes to invitations, requests, or opportunities is not the best use of your time, regardless of how good these might be.

But saying no is excruciating; you don’t want to let anyone down, plus it is emotionally draining to turn things down. Furthermore, you don’t want to come off as rude or, worse, say no to something that might lead to a great opportunity. 

These are common feelings. It leads us to say yes even when we should have said no in the first place. 

What makes it easier to say no is to remove the friction connected to rejection. To do this, it helps to have a template to say no. 

Why use a template?

Saying no can be hard on an emotional level. We do not want to be associated with negativity. The easier you make it for yourself to say no, the more likely you will do so. 

We often tend to default to yes for commitments even when we are unsure whether we will attend them, or worse, even when we know we won’t make it, which leads to shattering others expectations.

Having a set of No templates means you can have them on hand and use them whenever you need to decline a commitment. 

If you take a few minutes to draft no replies to some of the most common requests you get, you can then save them in a Google doc, an email template or a note on your phone to use on an as you need it basis. 

A few suggestions for your templates

Be Concise

A few sentences are more than enough to get your message across. 

If you write too much, you will run into two issues: 

  • confuse your reader
  • it could be humiliating

No need to apologise

You own your time, and it is in your right to decline something—no need to feel guilty. You don’t even have to explain yourself. 

Just be polite and respectfully let them know you will not attend whatever you are declining. 

After all, it is much easier to take back a no than to take back a yes.

Say No as soon as you can

I don’t know about you, but I find last minute declines, or worse: no shows, extremely unrespectful. It can happen once for unexpected events, but it won’t put you in a good light if it happens more than once. Here, unlike above, you are required to apologise.

Always assume you are dealing with extremely busy people and decline as soon as you suspect you won’t make it. Don’t leave it until the last possible moment. Possibly suggest a different time/date.

A No for every occasion

Saying no to a potential job candidate is very different from saying no to a meeting.

As you encounter various types of requests you have to decline, create a template for them. It will help your future self when a similar event comes up again.

Relay your No to other support forms

You have to say no to a particular request at times, but you might want to leave options open to saying yes. 

For example, I don’t do coffee chats. But I do offer other options such as: 

  • one-time consulting calls (€)
  • custom digital marketing strategy development (€€)
  • I’ll answer a couple of very detailed questions via email (Free).

Having a template where I offer other support forms allows me to decline the coffee invite and suggest different options that are usually more advantageous.

Header image by Photo by Daniel Herron on Unsplash

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Alessia Cappello

Alessia eases brands, agencies and publishers measure their online advertising effectiveness. She is a digital marketing and advertising enthusiast by day. Passionate about the intersection between technology, art & culture by night.

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