How to Say No, Gracefully

How to say NoPlease repeat after me: No. NO!  It’s ok to say it, really. We were all really good at saying it when we were two and three years old. However, as adults we seem to have become afraid of the word.

Is it because we don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings? Because we are committing to a definite answer? Is it easier to say nothing and hope the other person just goes away?

Think about the times you might have been asked if you were interested in learning about a product, idea or service. If it came from a telemarketer, you probably had no problem saying no and hanging up the telephone. But what if the question comes from a friend, colleague or new contact? Hmmm, makes it more difficult, doesn’t it? Do you find yourself saying “Well, maybe …” and then ducking every time you run into the person, or avoiding the calls?

Well, you can stop. In most cases, an honest, upfront answer is preferred, especially when it is accompanied with courtesy and a smile.

  • “Thank you for thinking of me but I think I will pass on this one.”
  • “This doesn’t sound like something I’d be interested in but I appreciate you asking.”
  • “No, thank you. But good luck with your efforts.”

Most people don’t want to waste their time any more than you do, and by saying “maybe” you are essentially stringing them along. Do both of you a favor and cut them loose so that they may move on to other opportunities.

Learning to say “no” in a tactful, diplomatic manner is a reflection of your professionalism. It also speaks to the respect you show towards others.


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