How to say “no” without sounding like a lazy jerk

If you are like me, there are three scenarios in which I feel like the worst person in the world for saying “no.”

  • Would you like to donate a dollar for dying children?” This usually happens around the holidays at the cash register when your credit cards are already smoking from over-use. But if you say “no”, you sound like the devil. Just be a human and donate $5.
  • Can you help me move on Saturday?” When a good friend asks for help, you can’t possibly say no. Because there was a time when I didn’t want to shell out a few hundred bucks for U-Haul, so a friend helped me tie my mattress to the top of a Camry for free.
  • Hey, we really need you to head up this project” This is usually a request from your boss or supervisor. If you say “no way”, you can also say “goodbye” to that promotion or raise, right?

Whether it’s at work or agreeing to coach a little league or being that friend who is always helping out, sometimes saying “yes” and dealing with the consequences is easier than just saying “no.” But in the long run, you’re only hurting yourself.

Career coach, Mark Gonska with Dise & Company says it’s common.

“The crazy thing about saying yes is that it works for a time and helps you move up. You become the go-to person.”

He describes it as addicting. You get a rush of endorphins and feel important when you are the “go-to.” But…

“There’s a limit to how far you can go,” he says, “So you’re the person who says ‘yes’ to 10 things, but you can only get 5 of them done. Where I come from, 50% is a failing grade.”

What if there was an easier way to say “no”?

Try this:

“That sounds really important. Let me give it some thought and get back to you.”

Gonska says this buys you precious time to see if your schedule allows you to take on another project.

Follow it up with a deadline, for example, saying “Let me get back to you tomorrow morning.”

Think of how many times a project or request seemed so important one day, and then the next wasn’t even on the agenda anymore.

Another way to politely say “no” but incorporate the word “yes” is to say “Yes…and”

“Say ‘yes and let’s take a look at the projects I’d need to table for now,” Gonska suggests.

He says most of the time, managers don’t realize all of the work you have on your plate until you lay it out for them. This way, you open the conversation about priorities and let your supervisor make the decisions for you.

Being a “yes” person doesn’t always mean you’re getting ahead. In fact, it could be detrimental to your career, business or relationships. To see what that is, check out the YouTube version of this story as the bonus.

Pulling off saying “no” politely takes practice! Maybe you should start in small ways and work your way off to saying no to overtime or major projects at work.

I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below. What was the most ridiculous thing you’ve agreed to do? How do you politely say “no’?

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