Tips for Saying “No” to Others

How to Say “No” to Others

A lot of us, if we want to say no to something, we just don’t respond and we ghost. 

 That’s what teenagers call it today.  

Why do we ghost?   

Because we fear conflict and we don’t want to say yes.   

 We’re afraid that we might allow ourselves to say yes, either out of guilt, obligation, or fear of being viewed as mean.   

We just avoid it.   

A great way to look at this and to try is to use this framework that we call N.I.C.E.   

Super simple.   

Best Tips for Saying “No”

rory vaden quote

It’s just a little checklist.   

If you want to tell someone no, the first thing that you should do is to notice their value.  

That’s the N in the N.I.C.E. 

If you just brush them off because you are too busy to meet with them, that is going to leave them feeling like crap.  

It may not be your intention, but it will.   

But if you just, in your correspondence, thank them for reaching out to you and note what they’re doing is so important and it matters.  

Take a second to acknowledge or notice their value.   

Edify who they are because that’s a part of what hurts; what hurts more than somebody saying no to you is the story that you make up in your mind that you’re not good enough for this person or this opportunity.   

That’s the part that hurts. It’s not just that they said no, and you didn’t get the opportunity. It’s the emotional attachment that people have to what a no means.   

We make a no mean a lot more than it should be both as the giver of the no and the receiver of the no.    

Next is the I. You indicate your interest.   

Don’t fake this; this should be an authentic thing. Ask yourself what about this person can I appreciate? And what about what they’re doing?  

Here’s the third part. The C is to explain that you have competing priorities.   

As an example: Hey, I would love to do this, but I can’t because I’ve already committed to these other things.   

The power in competing priorities is people can understand that because they’re in the same position. They understand being stretched thin.   

When you just tell them that you are not interested in meeting with them, it is one of those things where one can’t help but feel like you’re better than me, or I’m not good enough for you, etc.    

But when I explain I have competing priorities; it helps them understand.   

Here is an example of showing this when an author declined a request of mine:   

Given the backlog of commitments already on my plate, I’m afraid I lack the bandwidth to add another piece to my stack, clamoring for my attention.   

What an elegant way of doing saying no!  

Lastly, the E.   

Encourage them and if possible, exceed their expectation.  

Even though you’re telling them no, you can still encourage them in their journey.  

See how this author wrapped up his decline:   

Having been through the adventure of writing, I fully appreciate the exhilaration, exhaustion, and anxiety of publishing a book. I extend to you my warmest and best wishes for great success with Take the Stairs. And I hope you can understand.   


[Author who will never meet with you]  

That’s the encouragement.    

Now, the only other thing that I think would have made this the perfect no is to exceed their expectations.   

And here’s how you exceed the expectations. You don’t say yes to what they’re requesting, but you do something for them that you can do– something convenient.    

Here’s another good example.   

Nowadays, I get invited to speak in a lot of different places. The vast majority of people who reach out have little or no money far from my speaking fee which has gone up quite large these days compared to where I was 20 years ago.   

I can’t accept every engagement but what we try to do for everyone who has reached out, is do something nice for them. In our case, we’ll send them bookmarks, quote books, or a book. We’ll do something they didn’t ask for.   

And that’s a great way to say no.    

Super powerful. Super edifying.  

And it’s super simple.   

How about you? Have you used this technique to say no to others? Tell me your experiences; I love to know.   

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