How to say no – gracefully

There’s a real art to saying no to people’s unwanted requests. If you’re asked to do something you don’t want to do, and you say no gracefully and firmly, you’re taking care of yourself and your needs. If you don’t, it’s easy to end up busy and resentful. My husband and eldest daughter instinctively have the gift of saying no. I don’t. But I’m learning.

I learn from masters. Cheryl Richardson in her book The Art of Extreme Self-Care explains it well in her chapter “Let me disappoint you”.
She suggests before responding to unwanted requests you:

  • Buy some time.
  • Do a gut check.
  • Then tell the truth directly with grace and love.

In one of Cheryl’s examples, on being asked to join a local charity board, Cheryl suggests this response: “Thank you for your invitation. While I’m unable to accept, I wish you all the best with your organization (project, goals, or what have you).”
Brilliant! I bought this book so I could refer to this chapter whenever I needed it.

How to respond to a request for a second date if you’re not keen? I always wondered how to handle this awkward situation. A woman who went on 77 dates in two years said no like this:
“I had a fun time but I just didn’t feel any spark between us”. Clear, firm but not unkind.

Two more wonderful examples come from New York Times bestselling author (and lovely person) Nalini Singh. At the bottom of her FAQ page for writers (scroll to the bottom) are examples of Nalini saying no gracefully to writers’ unsolicited requests.
Q: I have a great idea – will you write the book and then we’ll split the proceeds?
A: No, thanks, I’m happy writing my own books. But good luck with your idea!
Q: Do you give cover blurbs?
A; Because of the number of requests I receive to read books to see if I’ll blurb them, I only consider requests that come through either my editor or my agent.

I’m always looking for more examples of saying no gracefully. If you have any examples, please post them in a comment.

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