4 Easy Ways to Say No

Being comfortable with saying no is about using your skills of assertiveness. However, it is important to remember that being assertive does not mean being: over confident, aggressive or dismissive. Being assertive is about expressing your wants and your needs in the most professional and emotionally intelligent way possible. Being able to say no and feeling comfortable with saying no is a way of showing your assertiveness. Saying no does not need to be a cold, hard direct no; there are other ways that you can professionally say no.

1. Can they do it themselves?

If someone is coming to you and asking you to do something because you’re reliable, accountable or knowledgeable, but they’re constantly looking to you to do this task for them, one of the things you can say is, “Is this something that you can do yourself? Is this something that you can try, and if you come unstuck, I’ll come and help you?” Ask people is it something that they can do themselves or can have a go at doing themselves.

2. Confirm the deadline

Another way that you can say no is to be clear and to determine what the deadlines are for the task, because quite often my understanding of what is urgent is different to your understanding of what is urgent. You hopefully have a pretty good understanding of what your workload is, so if someone is coming to you and asking for something ask them, “If I get this to you by the end of the day, is that okay? Or “If I get this to you by the end of the week, is that okay?” “Is that going to meet your needs and requirements?” If they say no, then that gives you an opportunity to say, “I’m sorry, I’m not going to be able to achieve that for you in that timeframe.” That way you’re able to say no in a way that’s professional and diplomatic rather than saying, “I’m just too busy,” or “I don’t have enough time,” which can come across as negative or aggressive.

3. Thank them for coming to you

It’s really important that when you’re saying no to somebody that you use language that’s professional. A way that you can address that is by starting the conversation or the response with a thank you. “Thanks for coming to me with this problem”, Thank you for asking me” or “Thanks for reaching out to me”. Starting the conversation with “Thank you, but I’m not able to assist you right now” is a really positive way to reject the request that’s being made of you.

4. Are you the right person for the job?

Another way that you can say no is to ask the question, “Do you think I’m the right person to do this? I’m not sure I’m a good fit” or “Do you think I’m the right person to do this given my scope of duties and responsibilities? I’m not sure I am”. Asking those questions is a great way to be able to say no to clients or customers that you know are not a good fit, or when you know the task is outside the scope of your duties, responsibilities, or job description.

Don’t be afraid to push back in terms of appointments and obligations. For example, if somebody is requesting time with you, it’s a client or a customer who you really want to work with, don’t be afraid to say, “Would it be possible if we could meet at this time or this time?” Or if you’ve made an appointment with somebody and you feel that you’re rushed for time or you’ve got too much work on your plate, don’t be afraid to say, “Would it be all right if we reschedule?” Or “I’m going to need to reschedule this appointment, what time works for you?” This shows that you’re taking ownership for your time rather than being late or rushing them through or letting them down at the last minute. Don’t be afraid to reschedule.

It’s really important that we use assertive language and avoid language such as, “I’ll try,” or, “Possibly.” This kind of language is too gray, and people can interpret that language as a no or a maybe or a yes. It’s more assertive to use some of the suggestions that I’ve provided which demonstrate your level of commitment and confidence.

Here’s what I want to leave you with. The power of your yes comes down to how well you can say no. It’s the things that we say no to that determine the strength of our yes. I know for me in business it’s the clients, projects or offers that I say no to that has helped me gain greater clarity around who I want to work with and what type of work I want to do. By knowing what tasks I’m going to say no to, means that my yes is so much more powerful, stronger and clearer. This can apply in personal environments and situations as well as professional ones. Remember the power of your yes comes down to how well you can say no.


  1. Ask if this is a task they can do themselves?
  2. Negotiate a deadline.
  3. Ask “Am I the right person for this task?”


  1. Use negative language
  2. Say yes to everything
  3. Be afraid to reschedule or cancel appointments if they don’t serve you

If you’d like advice on how you can better prioritise your time,

You can book a time to chat. My goal is not to sell but to always give value. Promise.

ARE YOU AGGRESSIVE, PASSIVE OR ASSERTIVE? Which one are you? Take the quiz to find out.

About the Author:

Barbara Clifford (The Time Tamer) is a Time Management Strategist & Stress Management Practitioner based in Alice Springs, Australia. She has spent over 20 years working in time precious and stressful industries such as film, hospitality and marketing. She has always had a burning passion for creating order and making sense of things. She is sought after like a beacon in a sea of chaos to provide professional development in the business environment through workshop training, coaching, mentoring, online training programs, webinars and as a guest speaker around Australia. Her professional experience has included contracts with small business, Not For Profits, Aboriginal Organisations, Media, Marketing, Aged Care, Universities, Health Services and Cruise Ships.