How to Tactfully Say "No"


Almost all of us have been in situations at work where we had a coworker, boss, client or customer ask us to do something that was either a total waste of time or simply a bad idea. However, many of us have also had the “never say no” business mentality hammered into us over many years. How do we reconcile those two sides and say “no” to bad ideas without offending the person who made the request?

Here are some tips on how you can tactfully say “no” in the business world:

Stay positive.

Always be mindful of the tone you use, as well as your body language (when talking in person). Rather than instantly declining the request, take some time to mull it over and see if you can at least partially accommodate it. If you can give a partial no rather than a full no, you should attempt to do so.

Say “Yes, but…”

Rather than simply giving a straight up “no” to a request, you can say yes but explain how a task would have to change for it to be accomplished. In some cases, your explanation may make the customer or colleague realize that the request is unrealistic, and then they will be more willing to accept a “no” answer or even retract the request.

Offer alternatives.

As you listen to the request, consider what your colleague or client wants to accomplish, rather than the way in which they want you to accomplish. This way you can say “no” to the method if it doesn't make sense, but provide a viable alternative for how you can accomplish what they are looking to do.

Explanations, not excuses.

Every time you offer an explanation for a “no” response, you shouldn't focus on excuses such as lack of time or inability to get the task done. Instead, help the person making the request to understand the sheer amount of work that would go into the task and the time involved, as well as potential difficulties associated with the task. Their understanding is important in preventing hard feelings.

Always end positively.

End the discussion as amicably as possible, and make sure that the requester understands that the “no” answer is not meant personally.
Saying “no” can be difficult, but these tips can help you to make it just a little easier. Contact us at Viral Solutions if you have more questions about how you can learn to say “no” in the business world!
Christine Kelly | Queen Bee | Viral Solutions LLC

Prior to joining Viral Solutions, Christine held executive leadership roles at some of the largest small business consulting firms in the USA. Her experience includes leading direct reports of over 130 remote sales agents who generated $38mm in annual revenue. She obtained her Marketing degree from British Columbia Institute of Technology. Bring her C-Suite experience to your small business. Although our company is virtual, and we can work with you wherever you are located, she is located in Denver, Colorado and owns a second home in Vancouver, BC Canada.


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