HR Specialist

5 Steps to Say ‘No’ (With Kindness)

In Pre/Post Employment Services on January 20, 2010 at 9:46 am

You know that little project you agreed to complete because your boss said it would only take a minute? Or the lengthy phone call with your friend who only rings when she is in crisis (again)? How about the two-hour community car wash that took nine months to organize? Welcome to Time Vampire Central — where non-mandatory activities suck you dry.

Believe it or not there is indeed a silver bullet for the time vampires in your life. It is the tiniest complete sentence in the English language. With a little practice, the simplest, most powerful utterance in our fabulous system of words can be yours. Are you ready? Say it with me now.


Saying “no” is not easy, especially for women who are conditioned to accommodate everyone else’s needs before their own. But we are modern, savvy individuals who know that setting boundaries is the key to our success. “No” is a part of establishing those limits so we have room to breathe and achieve.

If you are ready to release the time vampires from your life, the following process will help them bite the bullet once and for all.

1. Acknowledge. If someone asks you to do something, it is because they have faith you can do it or they like you enough to want to spend their time with you. If spearheading a new project or attending that party makes your heart sink instead of sing, first acknowledge the person’s thoughtfulness for having considered you.

2. Express gratitude and interest. Thank the person for his or her invitation, then show interest in the project itself. Ask questions pertaining to the person’s request. Most often, people just want to feel important enough for you to listen.

3. Decline. Once you have acknowledged the person’s request and expressed your gratitude for the consideration, politely decline with a few simple words. If “no” itself is too hard, you can say you have an overlapping commitment.

4. Offer alternatives. If someone remains persistent in pursuing his or her request, offer up alternatives. Be careful not to get too involved in brainstorming new ideas or you might find yourself sucked into the project after all.

 5. Remember this: If you still struggle with declining people’s requests, stick a note on your mirror that reminds you that saying “no” to someone else is actually saying “yes” to yourself. Repeat it like a mantra until it becomes second nature. And if that doesn’t work, tell yourself that “no” is indeed a complete sentence. It really is.

You needn’t make excuses when someone asks you to do something you’d rather not. Consider a few simple sentences such as “It sounds like a wonderful opportunity that I am going to miss. Do keep me posted on your progress!” Or “I look forward to hearing all about it. To your success!” You can also say “no” without uttering the word at all. Letting that call go to voicemail or answering non-urgent e-mails the next day is another way of letting the world know you are simply not available at the moment.

Saying “no” is a lot like flossing. You may not notice an immediate impact, but, over time, you will appreciate the difference it can make in your life. With the “Power of No” by your side, the time vampires suck from your life will recede into the darkness from whence they came, and you will have liberated your personal bank account of time for what matters most.


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