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Does declining an offer or refusing a request make you feel uncomfortable? Too many people find it difficult to say “no.” Sometimes it is because they want to be a team player. Other times, they do not want to disappoint a colleague or client, saying “no” is often difficult. However, it is more important than always looking for everyone else to be happy.

Sometimes, though, saying “yes” comes with consequences. For example, agreeing to something might mean sacrificing your values, efforts on our primary project or giving up on your personal time. There are many times when you need to respectfully push back.

 

You can just say it

If you know you want to say “no,” do not avoid it. Try to say something like, “I’m sorry I can’t attend that meeting” or “I’ll pass this round, but thanks.” The longer you put it off, the more pressure you will feel. 

You must be sincere

Often, people avoid saying “no” because they do not want to burn bridges. However, most people will accept your rejection if you are sincere about it. Just be upfront and honest by saying, “I’m sorry I’m busy with [X] and can’t commit to this” or “This isn’t what I’m looking for. Sorry.” This shows you are interested in them (building relationships), even if you are not able to fulfill the request.

You should consider the request instead of the person

It becomes much easier to say “no” when you focus on what is being asked of you rather than who is asking. Do you have the bandwidth or budget to agree or attend? Is the request something you can realistically do? If the answer is “no,” then decline it. 

You must stay upbeat

Saying “no” does not mean you are ruling out a relationship. Even if you cannot agree to a colleague’s or client’s request right now, you should keep the options open. Let the other person know you would love to reconnect down the line to talk about possible collaborations or opportunities. 

You can offer an alternative

Is there a different option that might work? If so, tell the other person what you might be able to do instead. Just remember to only present an alternative if one exists—do not use it as a crutch for not saying “yes.”. 

You must prioritize your own health and happiness

Too many people say “yes” because they do not want to make someone else feel bad or they do not want to leave someone in a lurch. Instead of bending over backward for someone else, think about what you need to be successful and feel happy. You are not responsible for protecting the feelings of everyone around you. 

You should let go when needed

Do not maintain relationships to avoid conflict. If you find yourself working with someone who constantly drains you or who expects you to always agree, find out how you can work with a new contact. 

 Unless you learn how to say “no” sometimes, you risk the constant pressure of making everyone else happy. You can succeed at work, avoid burnout, and create a more fulfilling life when you stop immediately agreeing to every request that comes your way. Remember that you are not rude or combative when you “no,” but you are alerting others that you are in control of how you spend your time. And this will help you thrive.

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