This week I had to write a really difficult email. I had to say, “no” to a friend who wanted help with a writing project. They had an overnight deadline, and I simply couldn’t put my other clients’ work aside to help, no matter how much I wanted to. If you know me, you know that I’m a “yes” person, and I find it hard to say, “no.” Even as a professional writer, I found it hard to write that email.
I’m sure that you, too, find “no” hard sometimes, so I put together some great guidelines that you may like to save, if ever you are in that situation.
There are many situations these days where we have to say, “no.” Writing “no” is certainly not comfortable, but it doesn’t have to be hard.
Sometimes, you simply don’t want to do something. Sometimes there may be consequences for you that the other person doesn’t realise. Sometimes you are too busy at work, or have your own deadlines. Sometimes, you have promised to spend time with the family, or you have visitors, or a million other reasons. It is very uncomfortable, though to have to say, “no.”
So how do you do it in a way that won’t leave you looking like the bad guy?
- Be brief
- Be honest
- Be kind and supportive.
Here is a template:
- Thank you for getting in touch.
- I think it’s wonderful that you are doing (y).
- I’m flattered that you would want to ask me to (do whatever.)
- I need to say, “no,” because (very brief explanation.)
- But I’d love to (support you in some other way.)
- Thank you for being such a good friend/colleague/student/, and I wish you all the best in (whatever they are doing.)
Here are a few examples:
Thank you for getting in touch. I think it’s awesome that you are writing your own business book. I’m very flattered that you would ask me to read it before it goes to your publisher on Wednesday, but I can’t, sadly, because I have some very tight deadlines of my own in the next two days. I’d love to read it later, if you would like to send it to me. Thank you for being such a valuable supporter of my business, and I wish you all the success you deserve with your new book.
Good Morning, Sid.
Thank you for contacting me about speaking at your next networking meeting. It is such an honour that you thought of me! Unfortunately, with my current schedule it won’t be possible to give it the 100% it deserves. Have you thought about asking x? She’s an excellent speaker on y topic, and would add real value to your group. I have included her contact details below. Good luck with your wonderful networking events. They are always so valuable.
Thank you for contacting me to be a referee for you job application. How awesome that you are going for that position! Sadly, I don’t think I’m the right person to give the recommendation, as I have never seen you organise a large event, and I’m sure that’s a key element in the new role. If you have a colleague who has seen your capabilities, you would be much better off asking them. Good luck with your application!
The key is to keep it brief. Reply immediately so they have time to seek the help they need elsewhere. Let them know, very clearly, that you are saying, “no.”
Give a brief explanation, but don’t go into too many details. Most of the time, the person will understand.
Be supportive. If there is some other way you can help, do it. It softens the blow. Give them a link to a useful blog post, or a few quick tips. Don’t offer something that you are not willing to give.
And what if they are angry with your polite, reasonable and well-crafted “no”?
Then maybe they aren’t the friend/ colleague/person you thought they were.
You can’t always say, “yes.” Nobody can.
Have you had times when you had to say, “no,” to someone? How did you handle it?