Here are five ways to say “No.” in a positive way:
1. Counter propose a time frame that works for you. “No, I can’t have it done on Tuesday but I could have it finished by Friday if that will work for you.”
2. Counter propose to do a portion that fits your time and skills. “No, I can’t plan the meeting but I do have time to type the agends and distribute it once someone else had that information pulled together.”
3. Counter propose with an honest suggestion of an alternative person. “No, I am not very skilled as designing a flyer for department holiday celebration but you know who loves to do that kind of project? Mary does. She might be willing to help you, why don’t you check with her.”
4. Counter propose with another method to achieve the objective. “No, I don’t have time to organize the meeting, but if all you really need to do is make sure everyone has this information, I can e-mail it with a confirmation so we know everyone received it.”
5. Counter with another way to help that matches your skills. It is better to give an honest “No.” than to say “Yes.” and do it poorly or not follow through at all. “I’m sorry but no. The simple truth is, I don’t have the skills or the time to design a marketing piece. If you ever need someone to do some research, ask, because I am good at researching and I know how to do it quickly.
Saying “No.” does not have to carry guilt. It can be a relationship building stepping stone if you just remember that you are being asked, because someone is either not sure you can or that you have the to do the project or task in first place. They are really just looking for help and there are ways to provide it even when you say “No.”