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The SeamLess Life

Isuue #18, January 11, 1999

Saying The Graceful 'No': Part I

"Saying 'no' to this is my gift to whoever says 'yes.'"
--Travis Twomey

In last week's Seamless Life™ we said that to build your resilience, you need to set good boundaries and limits. That means being able to say 'no' when you mean 'no.' When 'no' is really the right answer for you.

This week and next, we're sharing suggestions about how to say no. They're the favorite ways that we and our colleagues have found to tell someone 'no' and do it gracefully.

    1. "This does sound like something that may be for me--AND I've just committed to sticking to 3 other priorities right now. Will you come back in 90 days and give me another chance to look at this opportunity with you?"

    This one works because it acknowledges your interest AND keeps you from taking on more than you can really complete. If the other person is really interested in this, they'll get back to you and ask again. Make sure that you're telling the truth-that there is really an opportunity there that you see for yourself. BUT, don't use this one when you really don't want to do what's being asked. You'll just have to say 'no' twice. Worse yet, you'll have intentionally mislead them.

    1. "I wish I could, but it's just not possible right now. Thank you for thinking of me."

    Your 'no' is based on the timing of the request. Thanking the requester is what really helps here. Be sincere. Because you've acknowledged your thanks, the person will think of you again when similar opportunities come around. So, you've said 'no' to this one but not to others that are similar. The requester will be back. Make sure you want that to happen before you use this one.

    Similar variations are:
    1. "Thanks for thinking of me, but I don't think so right now."

    2. "I hate saying 'no' to you, but I really must this time."

    3. "It doesn't work for me at this time."

    Make sure after you say one of these, you just stop. Don't say any more. No need to justify or give reasons.

    1. "This year my priorities are very few but very focused. I won't be able to squeeze this one in."

      Our colleague Laura Berman-Fortgang is saying 'no' this way right now. She's the author of a great book, "Take Yourself to the Top". She gets many requests to speak but her priority is a book tour. You'll be in good company if you use this one!

    2. "This isn't a good time for me to do that - I have other commitments. I'll let you know if I can spend time on it later."

    3. "What a wonderful invitation - but I'm just stretched too much to accept it."

      Remember that you don't have to tell the other person what your priorities are. We suggest, in fact, that you don't. You don't want to get into a debate about whether your priorities are truly more important or valuable than what the other person is asking you to do.

    We suggest you practice saying each of these 'graceful no' lines until you've become comfortable hearing yourself say them. Then, when the time comes, you'll be ready to respond gracefully.

    Do you have wonderful ways you've found to say "NO"? Send us your suggestions and ideas, and we'll include them in next week's article.

    (Thanks to our colleagues, Laura Berman Fortgang, Mad Homan, Donice Hall, Jane Kalagher, Roberta Beck, Cathy Stucker, and Travis Twomey for sharing their graceful strategies with us and Seamless Life™ readers.)

    Coming Attractions!

    Next week: (

    Issue#19 Saying the Graceful 'NO' : Part II

    Contact us with questions or suggestions.
    Sherry can be reached at
    The Lowry Group, Austin, Texas USA,

    Ph: 512-527-0097

    Diane and Sherry's book, Discovering Your Best Self Through the Art of Coaching, can be ordered at

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    Text © Diane Menendez & Sherry Lowry, 1998, 1999. Part of the original Sideroad.
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