How to Say “No” (Graciously and Effectively)

The following is a Guest Post By Bob Burg. I’m very excited about his new book, “Adversaries into Allies,” and happy to be able to be a part of his book launch this week.

(Image credit)

Have you ever been asked to do something that you simply didn’t want to do? Yet, saying no was difficult. Perhaps you didn’t want to let them down or even appear selfish.

On the other hand, you really didn’t want to say yes.

Saying no can be difficult, can’t it?

You may have received advice saying that it’s okay to just tell people no! Or, even that “’No’ is a complete sentence!”

Well, despite the momentary feeling of empowerment upon hearing that, saying no, especially like that, is easier said than done.

After all, are you willing to say no in such a way that it offends the person, closes the door on other opportunities or — most importantly — simply runs contrary to your core value of treating people kindly?

Probably not. Especially if you’re the type who has a hard time turning people down anyway.

Good news:

You can say no. And, you can do it with tact, kindness, and in a way that makes the other person feel good about themselves.


Let’s say a friend or colleague asks you to serve on a committee. For whatever reason, you’d rather not. Simply say:

Thank you for your kind offer. While it’s not something I’d like to do, please know how honored {or grateful} I am to be asked.

The key is to say it with kindness and gratitude and with absolutely no defensiveness.

Key point. This is vital: Make no excuses!

Resist the very natural urge to say, “I don’t have time” or something similar. If you do, they’ll attempt to answer your objection. And, when they do you’ll either have to accept (so that you don’t appear to be a liar) or admit that what you said wasn’t really true. Either way, bad feelings will ensue.

Don’t get sucked into that game. The above response along with a genuine smile of gratitude will accomplish your goal. That, and no excuses!

But, what if they persist?

For example, he or she says, “oh, c’mon; why not?” Or, “please, we really need you.”

All you have to do is reply with a sincere smile and say, “I’d just rather not, but thank you so much for considering me.”

The person will clearly understand that you’re not going to accept the position, but cannot possibly be offended because of your gracious, humble and appreciative attitude.

Once you begin training the people in your life (even those who are used to your giving in) that you are able to say no and not be bullied, coerced or guilted into doing something, you will find that, from now on, all it will take is one “no” per request to not be asked again.

Of course there are plenty of times that “yes” is the appropriate response. But, saying no when you should say no allows you to say yes more often when you feel you should say yes.

And, it allows you to do what you do say yes to much more effectively.


Excerpted from Bob Burg’s new book, Adversaries into Allies. Best known as coauthor of The Go-Giver, Burg’s newest book will help you to become a top influencer and persuader, learning how to consistently obtain the results you want, while helping everyone come away a winner. You can get Chapter One by visiting
I highly recommend it!


  1. I’d say “What type of person are you looking for?” “What’s the biggest challenge they’d be facing in this project?” yada yada yada….I guarantee they’ll come up with someone else who’s a better fit.

    • Thanks Steve for your comment! Agreed – we can’t be the best fit for every project when someone need helps. I find it hard to say no sometimes, but I want to be able to give 100% in whatever I do, so saying no is important. I want all my work to be my best work. Hard to do if I am spread too thin, saying yes to everything.

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