How to Say No

Bikundo Onyari

Generally speaking, people can’t say no to someone for asking them for something because they are so worried about upsetting the person or lack the courage to turn down the request. People often dislike disagreeing or believe saying yes is easier than saying no. Others can simply not say no. However, there are often instances where it is best to say no to a request and it is important to learn how to utter that small word, “NO”.

I have personally struggled with this for a long time. When you say yes and you can’t make it, it piles pressure on you to meet the end of the bargain. Ultimately you become stressed and that’s not the direction you wished to take. I easily say yes then I quickly remember woaaah, I can’t make it. Again the pressure is on me!

Adopt simple strategies to say no, politely but firmly. You don’t need to cook stories up in order to refuse. You don’t need to offer lame excuses. You can say no without being dishonest.

Below are some ways you can say no:

  • Am sorry this can’t work for me (my favorite)
  • No
  • I can’t accept this, with my present commitments. I am sorry
  • I am quite busy now. I will have to decline
  • I don’t think I have time for it, as I am in the middle of something important
  • After looking at my calendar, I found that I already have prior commitments
  • No. I would only be able to do a mediocre job right now
  • No. I don’t have any spare time right now
  • Not this time, please give me more notice next time and I will work it out in my schedule
  • I can’t
  • Why don’t you try someone else? I am not the right person for this

Add other ways you can say no without feeling uneasy or hurting others by being blunt or even rude.

If you are not sure, you can always ask for time to make the decision without feeling guilty. If somebody persists with the request when you want to say no, you may be assertive and firmly decline. You don’t need to risk over committing by saying yes when you actually want to say no.

In extreme cases, people unable to say no to their bosses, who demand much more work than they can reasonably manage to do within a specified time, end up either not doing the job at all or doing it poorly. In either case, they are unnecessarily putting their jobs on the line. If you can show your boss, the reasons for not being able to accept the extra responsibility, you may be able to convince your superior about your inability to accept additional work. You can perhaps make a list of all the projects that have already filled your plate. Perhaps you can suggest alternative strategies or others whose workload is lower or competence levels higher for accomplishing that particular piece of work. In any case, don’t accept anything that puts your job at risk or makes you suffer later.

Undoubtedly, learning to say no is a must skill for everyone. Saying no at the right time can help you gain respect with your peers and help avoid bitterness from those to have to hear it. So as you start a new year, 2016, work on this skill and see the results. It won’t be easy, however the results will be outstanding.


Bikundo Onyari

Bikundo - LifeMAPPBikundo is a self taught social entrepreneur, based in Nairobi, Kenya. He is a Bridge2Success mentor and coach for upward mobile young professionals who are ambitious, smart, go-getters and high achievers who are keen to create a dynamic and inspiring life. Bikundo feels purposeful working with people to realize and nurture their abilities. Apart from Kenya, he has worked in a variety of locations including Rwanda, Uganda, the Netherlands, Morocco and Mexico. You can reach him on Twitter @BikundoOnyari.

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