How to Say No Positively

Sometimes in life you have to say no to others. While most people dislike saying no, it really is an important life skill to learn. Failure to say no to others can often lead to stress, overwhelm, and unhappiness.

In my books, speeches, and professional work, I stress the importance of positivity. But saying no to others feels so negative. The word itself is certainly not positive. And the feeling it leaves after a conversation can sometimes feel negative. So how can you say no to others without actually saying the word “no”? How can you protect your time, your feelings, and your needs while keeping the relationship positive?

Here is a simple four-step process to say no positively:

1. Acknowledge the importance of the other person’s request. “I understand that is important to you.”

2. Inform the person that you have a problem with their idea or suggestion. “But I have a problem with it.”

3. Describe the problem as you see it. For example: “Your doing it would put a burden on everyone else.”

4. Elicit from the person another idea for solving the problem. “Let’s think of something that would be fair to everyone.”

With this four-step approach, you’re saying no without actually using the word. Additionally, you’re getting the other person involved in a better solution. It is a positive way to say no that won’t hinder the relationship.

Tip: Saying no is something everyone must learn to do. When you use this four-step process to focus on the relationship and on solutions (rather than problems), you can say no in a way that leaves everyone feeling positive.


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