We now live in a ‘yes’ culture where to say ‘no’ to an increased workload or a request from a friend is to run the risk of being perceived as negative or unhelpful. Balancing the commitments of your personal life with an increasingly busy career can leave you feeling like you are running to standstill but there is a solution – two letters, one simple word – no.

Learning to say ‘no’ with grace and authority whilst protecting your personal brand is an essential skill and in my upcoming course. I will show you how.

Steve Jobs once said ‘People think focus means saying “Yes” to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying “No” to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You must pick carefully. I’m as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done.

That’s fine if you are the CEO of a multibillion dollar company but for the rest of us how do we effectively say no to a colleague, boss or loved one?

Its Ok to say NO

If someone asks for your help it’s essential you recognize the fact that they have sought you out and values the help you could provide. Make sure the other person realizes this. If the request is something that you would – time permitting – wish to help out with let them know.

Use the old ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ line. Make sure you validate and understand the request. By doing so you ensure the requestor doesn’t feel dismissed.

Do excuse and do explain but do it briefly. Give the requestor a brief explanation of what’s preventing you from helping and politely decline. Make sure you keep it brief.

Where possible offer some insight to your colleague or loved one as to who may be able to help or some insight into how they might fulfill the request better themselves. Ask about what specifically they needed your help with – their pain point – and redirect or advise accordingly.


At this point a lot of people will persist with their request. Some people are ok with standing their ground but some of us feel like this is a confrontational situation and can get a bit anxious.This is understandable but also manageable.

Anxiety can lead to rush of adrenaline and make it more difficult for some people to be concise. We want to say no with grace and authority but we do ultimately want to say no. Sometimes we can struggle to think clearly in a situation where someone springs a request on us and the adrenaline kicks in. Often, we can end up acquiescing to the request or forgetting how to handle the request with grace and authority. Both are situations we want to avoid.

If you struggle with nervousness in these situations follow the above steps and this will give you time to think, to compose your thoughts and formulate your response and will crucially help dissipate your initial adrenaline rush and allow you to refuse in a composed fashion.