G Scott Brown Leadership

How to Say No Without Burning Your Bridges

How to Say No Without Burning Your Bridges


Saying ‘no’ is one of the hardest things in the world to do. Why? While there’s always some worry about a potential conflict, often the most troubling aspect of saying ‘no’ has more to do with being terrified of burning our bridges. And with good reason, you may want to, or have to, work with that person again. People move within companies all the time, and the co-worker you put down today might be your manager tomorrow. 

So what can you do to maintain a solid relationship while still protecting your own needs? 

  1. “I don’t have time right now.” The first step to saying ‘no,’ is to understand that your time has value. Saying ‘no’ because you’re overbooked is both honest and something everyone understands. 
  1. What’s important to you? Be able to state your priorities – and stand by them. “I’m not available on Saturday, that’s my time with the kids” lets others know that some things are more important – as they should be. 
  1. Practice. Some people are just going to be persistent. There’s no need to get your back up, keep saying ‘no’ every time they ask. They’ll get the message, just don't lose your temper.. 
  1. No apology is necessary. When you apologize, you weaken your position. To keep your ‘no’ firm, drop the apology. 
  1. Redefine your ‘nice’! In the past, you might have said ‘yes’ to everything to keep everybody happy. Now it’s time to retrain everyone (including you) that saying ‘no’ doesn’t take you off the ‘nice’ list. You’re just adding the ability to be firm and confident to your repertoire. 
  1. Yes, you can say ‘no’ to your boss. Sometimes even your boss forgets just how busy you are. A gentle reminder that you’ve already got a lot of work on your plate will end in a couple of ways – they can help you re-prioritize what you have, or they can give either the project to someone else or save it for you to do later. 
  1. Stage a pre-emptive strike. Sometimes you can see the request coming from a mile off. A quick statement such as, “Hey just letting you know that I’m working to a deadline and can’t take on anything new right now” timed correctly can keep someone from asking you at all. 
  1. “Let me think about that.” This answer gives you time to rethink your schedule and what commitments you already have. You can see if you have time for something new or not. The person who is asking likes this because it shows you’re giving them serious consideration. 
  1. Maybe another time. It might be that what doesn’t work now, would work later. Say ‘no’ but with a suggestion, such as, “I don’t have time right now, but if we can push this to next week, I’m in.” 
  1. “While I love the idea, it’s just not me.” Letting the other person know that you are the problem and not them or the work helps to soften the blow. Also, they’re likely to appreciate the honesty. 

A gentle ‘no’ worded well goes a long way toward keeping the relationship open with the other individual. Remember to follow these tips, and you will never have to be afraid of saying ‘no’ again!

Hope this helps in your challenging situations.

Check out my NEW E-Book:

The Art of Saying NO.
How to say No without feeling guilty.


In fact you can check out all my E-Books at www.LivingLifeBlessed.com

If you have any questions or comments you can email me at

[email protected]






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