How to say “NO”  to Job Requests and Demands from others


Last week Deborah Clark & Angela Favell gave us a funny and insightful talk on Time Management (see summary here) They finished off the talk with  “How to say NO” to demands from other. Below is Debs & Angela’s tips to be “Confident is saying NO”


1. Be sure where you stand first, i.e., whether you want to say yes or no. If not sure, say you need to check your diary, check with your boss, see what adjustments can be made to your schedule etc, and let the person know when you will have an answer. 

2. Ask for clarification if you don’t fully understand what is requested of you. 

3. Be as brief as possible, i.e., give a legitimate reason for your refusal, but avoid long elaborate explanations and justifications. Such excuses may be used by the other person to argue you out of your “no.” 

4. Don’t be afraid of using the word “no” when declining. Use it tactfully, soften it afterwards if necessary, but say “no” clearly in your initial reply. “No” has more power and is less ambiguous than, “Well, I just don’t think so…” 

5. Make sure your non-verbal gestures mirror your verbal messages. Shake your head when saying “no.” Often people unknowingly nod their heads and smile when they are attempting to decline or refuse. 

6. When you need to be firm in your refusal, use words such as “I’ve decided not to”, rather than “I can’t”, or “I shouldn’t”. This emphasises that you have made a choice. 

7. You may have to decline several times before the person hears you. It is not necessary to come up with a new explanation each time, just repeat your “no” and your original reason for declining. 

8. If the person persists even after you have repeated your NO several times, use silence (easier on the phone), or change the topic of conversation. You also have a right to end the conversation. 

9. You may want to acknowledge any feelings another has about your refusal, “I know this will be a disappointment to you, but I won’t be able to…” When you really are sorry that you need to say “no”, then it may be appropriate to say something like “I wish I did have the time to help you…”, but only if that really is the truth! Don’t feel that you always have to apologise for protecting your own time and your own targets! 

10. Avoid feeling guilty — it is not up to you to solve others’ problems or make them happy. In fact, you should feel proud of yourself if you have managed to defend your own time without damaging relationships.

11. If you do not want to agree to the person’s original request, but still want to help her/him out, offer a compromise or alternative solution: “I won’t be able to cover all afternoon, but I can help out between 2 and 3pm” 

12. You can change your mind and say NO to a request you originally said YES to. All the above applies to your change of mind. 

13. On the ‘flip side’ … Don’t be a person who never says “yes” and is considered argumentative and negative by others. Relationships are important to your success, and if you always refuse every request you cannot expect others to help you when you need favours.  

14. Help whenever you genuinely can, and don’t when you genuinely can’t!


Debs & Angela

The Create Escape

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.