Say “No” Positively

In my books, speeches, and professional work, I always stress the importance of positivity. But sometimes you simply have to tell people “No,” even though it’s not a positive word. So how can you say “No” without actually saying “No”? Here’s a simple four-step process:

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

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

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

4. Elicit from the person something else.
“Let’s think of something that would be fair to everyone.”

By doing this, you’re saying “No” without actually using the word, and you’re getting the other person involved in “owning” a new solution. This is the most positive way to say “No” and build the relationship at the same time.