How to tell someone no without feeling (or sounding) like a jerk

Last week I got an email for something I knew my response had to be a no.

As someone who really likes to be liked I always dread these kind of situations.

Sure I’ve written posts on why you should say no. I’ve also written on why you can’t make everybody happy and how that shouldn’t be your goal in life shouldn’t anyway. I know all that stuff.

I also know I really hate to tell people no (unless I’m saying it to drugs. Thanks D.A.R.E.).

But this time there wasn’t another option. I had to break out the N word.

But instead of just throwing a no out there like a pie in the face, Three Stooges style, I put something into my no that, much like said pie in the face, added some flavor to it that softened “the blow.”

I gave a redirect.

Not in a “I really don’t want to deal with you, but so-and-so would just LOVE to spend hours of their time helping you with that (even though we both they don’t).” Although, if I’m being honest, I’ve done that before.

No, what I did with my redirect is to do what my GPS does. When it senses I’m off course it recalculates, giving me another way to go, even if it’s a different way of getting there than I wanted.

And I think that’s what a good no will do.

A good no recognizes your time and abilities are limited. It communicates that to the other person. But a good no will go one step further with a but. A good no will say, “No, I won’t be able to help you with that, BUT if you do this, then you’ll be able to get what you need.”

After telling someone no, help them find another way to go.

That doesn’t mean they’ll always get their way. It’s not about that. But it does mean they’ll get what they NEED.

And that’s what a good no said right will do.

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