How to gracefully say NO to anything

saying NO-cynthia-ranjeeta


“The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes.”
~Tony Blair


Scour history books, and you’ll find that highly productive, satisfied, and successful people know when to say NO to something. In fact, knowing when to turn down a request or an offer is one of the most admirable qualities to be had.

In reality, we end up saying YES far more often than we say NO. There are several reasons why we don’t say no— we don’t want to come off as rude, we don’t want to burn bridges, or simply don’t have the right words for it. To avoid uncomfortable situations and explanations, we resort to the easy way out, and say yes.

As a result, we have perpetually overstuffed calendars and stressed-out lives. All because we didn’t have the courage to say a simple two-letter word.

It doesn’t have to be like this. With the right attitude, language, and tone, a No can be far kinder than a Yes laced with resentment.

Back in the day, as a newbie in business, I always had a tough time turning down clients. The reason why I couldn’t say no was because I feared missing out on opportunities. Like every new writer, I used to worry that if I turned down one opportunity, I wouldn’t get another.

Things changed when I finally realised that I couldn’t fit everything in my 24 hours, and definitely couldn’t have it all. It took a long time, and a lot of practice to be able to perfect my approach for saying no… Now I’m often told that I say no more than I say yes!

Today I’m sharing with you my approach for saying ‘no’… It’s a simple five step template that you could modify according to need and situation. Remember to include love and gratitude always.


  1. Begin with gratitude

Never forget to be kind and thankful whenever responding to a message. Just because you have to turn down a request or an offer, it doesn’t give you the right to be rude. Begin your response by thanking them:

  • “Many thanks for writing in.”
  • “It’s good to hear from you again.”
  • “I’m so happy you thought of me.”


  1. Acknowledge their request

Reaching out to someone with a request takes courage. Make sure to acknowledge this.

  • “I know what it takes to reach out. I appreciate your courage to reach out to me.”
  • “I understand this is an important project for you, and I’m glad you thought of me for this.”
  • “Your drive and determination is commendable.”


  1. Say No

There is no alternative to this. You have to get down to what you set out to do, that is, say no. Avoid things like ‘if only’, ‘I wish’, ‘someday’ and the like. If it’s No, it’s No.

  • “I appreciate you asking me but I cannot commit to that.”
  • “I’m afraid I cannot take you up on that offer.”
  • “It is a No.”
  • “I can see how much this means to you, but…no.”


  1. Give them a reason

You might think you don’t require explaining why you’re turning down an offer or request, but actually, you do. Unless the reason is cruel or unethical, giving an explanation helps put the person’s mind at ease. Keep the reason simple, like:

  • “There’s a lot on my plate right now, and I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew.”
  • “I’ve decided to take care of my health this year, and it means saying no to additional projects.”
  • “I’m cleaning up my deck and trying to un-busy myself. Thank you for understanding.”


  1. End by providing an alternative

Instead of leaving them with no help at all, provide an alternative solution. Send them a free roundup of resources, a piece of advice, or direct them to people who could help them.

  • “If you’re willing to let me help you in any other way, I’m more than happy to…”
  • “Please enjoy this roundup of resources that I hope you find helpful…”
  • “These people would be able to help you better and sooner than I…”
  • “I’m keeping you in my thoughts. Do keep me posted!”


That’s it. Saying NO can be as simple and easy as this.

It can be hard in the beginning. But as you realise that you’re really not offending or hurting anyone by saying no, it will get easier. Remember that we don’t live to please others, and have every right to say No without breaking into a sweat.

Over to you…

What’s the hardest thing you ever had to say NO to? How did you go about doing it? Let me know in the comments!


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One thought on “How to gracefully say NO to anything

  1. Gaurav Kumar says:

    Hi Cynthia,

    Saying no is an art and it shows the confidence.

    I remember the time when I was too shy and introvert that I avoided saying no at many times. It cost me a lot both financially and emotionally.

    Thanks to blogging that helped to me to become more open and now I know how to say no when it is necessary. Gratitude, request and reason is what I include in my words when I say “No”. Thanks for sharing.


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