5 Ways to Say “No” Without Sacrificing Professionalism

In my first blog this week I talked about the importance of saying “no.” Practicing saying “no” is important for our personal well being and the well being of our business. You can read more about the importance of saying “no” here.

So, we know it is important to say “no” but how do you say “no” without sacrificing professionalism? Below I will share five ways you can say “no” without risking your career and reputation.

1. Suggest Someone Better Suited

If you aren’t well suited for a job, practice saying “no” instead of pretending that you are well suited for the project. Try saying, “I don’t have a lot of experience in that arena, but let me help you find someone who would be better suited for that project.” By saying “no” in this way, you put your client first and show them that you value their time.

2. Blame Your Busy Schedule

At times, we can all be too busy to take on yet another project. It is important to realize this and be upfront about our busy schedules. Try saying, “Thank you for thinking of me, but my schedule is currently full” or “I currently can’t take on another client, but thank you for considering me.” By being upfront about your schedule, you’ll show potential clients that you value their time and can recognize when you might be taking on too much. They’ll respect you for being honest and upfront.

3. Don’t Burn Bridges, Build Them

Sometimes, we aren’t able to take on a project that we would really enjoy working on because the timing isn’t right. If you would really love to work with this potential client down the line try saying, “I’m honored that you’re considering me but I can’t commit now. Can you keep me in mind in the future?” By saying “no” in this way, you show your potential client that you respect them enough to be honest that you don’t have time for them, but you’re still very interested in working with them in the future. Build those bridges, don’t burn them!

4. Suggest Someone Who Has More Time To Commit

If you don’t have time to commit to a project 100% and you’re not able to move things around, consider suggesting someone you trust who has more time to commit. Make sure you suggest someone who has a great history of performing well. This way, your potential client can see that even though you weren’t able to work for them, you still have their best interests at heart. Try saying, “This project deserves 100% and I won’t be able to give it that at this time – Can I suggest someone who might?”

5. Be Humble, but Firm

Always be humble when declining a position. Show the potential client that you appreciate they considered you and you want them to know what it means to you. Try saying, “It means a lot to me that you want to work together, but I will have to politely decline.” If you have no expectations of working with this potential client in the future, refrain from saying “I will have to politely decline at this time.” Be firm, concrete and clear.

I hope this post helps you practice saying “no” without burning bridges in the process. If you’re still unsure about how to say “no,” I like this article by Jonathan Alpert for more tips. How do you say “no” with professionalism in mind? Let me know in the comments! 



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