How to Say No (When You Want to Say Yes)

6 min read
How to Say No

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The Slippery Slope of Little Requests

Tell me if this sounds familiar. In a rare free moment, you find yourself checking your email. A few messages in, you stumble onto a name you don’t recognize.

Subject line: Can I buy you a cup of Coffee?

Hiya! You don’t know me, but…

Another request for your time you should say no to…. But this is a high-quality person connected to someone important in your network. The email continues…

Your story has really inspired me—I’d love to have just a moment of your time to pick your brain over coffee.

You know you don’t have time for this request—in fact, you’ve said yes to too many these requests already! But you can’t help remembering when you were sending emails like this, hoping for a little help. You genuinely want to help and besides, this person is connected to someone you care about and you don’t want to let them down.

Protecting Your Most Valuable Asset

So what do you do? An essential step towards becoming the type of leader your company needs is being highly intentional with how you allocate your time. Practically, that means if a request does not move the needle forward, you need to master the Art of No.

The real challenge of saying no is not figuring out when to say it—honestly, you already know! Instead, it’s learning how to say no when you feel compelled to help or want to avoid the negative repercussions of no.

When you get asked for these favors—which you know you should say no to—there are ways to weaken the impact of rejection; ultimately making it easier for you to say no.

To help you master the Art of No while still giving back, we’re going to walk you through an email response you can effortlessly replicate.

By using the 3 key elements of our template—with an optional ending for high value people—you can protect your time without damaging your relationships.

The 3 Strategies for a No that Adds Value

[image of email]

Image Caption: The Art of No in Action

Let’s break down why this email works so you can start leveraging this skill immediately.

1. Positivity

Jumping right into saying no can feel harsh for the person requesting your time. Instead, start by identifying something specific you appreciate about this person, their outreach, or how they wrote their message:

“I really appreciate you reaching out and I’m so glad my story has inspired you.”

This opening needs to pull in something specific so it feels truly genuine. For these connections to your network or potential relationships, positivity should be used to soften the blow of No.

2. Rationale

The human brain loves to rationalize. By giving a rationale to accompany your No, you tap into a common experience of the human condition—our ache to know why?:

“That being said. I am focused on (fill in the blank) this quarter, and I’m not taking any outside meetings right now.”

By giving your rationale, you make it feel like you are saying no to the circumstances, not to the request.

3. Shift Focus

Any request comes with an intrinsic forward momentum. Saying no can feel like throwing up a wall which leads to an abrupt, painful crash. Instead, try redirecting the momentum:

“I recommend you check out (this blog post/podcast/social media post) I have created about (fill in the blank).”

If you don’t yet have content of your own to share, you can alternatively recommend a source that has been instrumental along your journey. Simply identify the most common requests or questions you receive, and find valuable pieces of pre-existing content to match them.

Optional Ending: Invitation to Engage for High Value Contacts

If you work through the key elements of Positivity, Rationale, and Shift Focus and still feel like you’re brushing someone off, you can close your message with an invitation to engage.

This is ideal for when these requests come from people incredibly important to your network or when you’re intrigued to go deeper after reading a well-delivered request:

“If you still have questions after reading this resource, send me your top 3. But please also include what you think the answers are based on your perspective and research.”

You will find that at least 50% requesters won’t follow through with this step, but if they do, it might be because they’re high quality and really going somewhere.

When you want to build into those future relationships, you can respond with a 5-minute audio or video recording—done simply with tools like Loom or Reverb. This drastically reduces the time you would’ve spent with this person while still providing immense value.

You Know When You Should Say No—Now You Can!

If you follow this outline, you’ll discover that what would’ve taken you 30 minutes or an hour, now only takes you 5 minutes. And, best of all, you’ll save time while still delivering the personal insight and value that this person really wanted from you.

Most leaders don’t realize that a high value No is more powerful than an empty Yes.

When you overwhelm your calendar with these little favors and social engagements, you disrupt your ability to be intentional with how allocate your time—ultimately impacting your ability to be as successful as you potentially could be.

Never again will you find yourself caught between your gut saying no and your heart saying yes. Follow our outline to leverage the Art of No and empower yourself to deliver the best possible experience to your network while protecting your time and maximizing your effectiveness.

Snag the Guide: How to Say No in the Hardest Situations

We’ve shown you how to say no to this classic case where you really want to say yes. But what about the situations where you want to say no but you don’t want to damage the relationship or deal with the awkwardness?

To take the Art of No to the next level, download our guide covering How to Say No in the 3 Most Common Scenarios CEOs Encounter.

Get intentional with your time by harnessing the power of the Art of No.


Download the Guide Here

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