38 Ways to Say No (and Still Preserve the Relationship)

1. I’m not available then, but could be available on (insert date)no buttonWould that date work?

2. Oh, I will be so disappointed to miss this!

3. While I would love to do that for you, [insert type of priorities] preclude it. I hope you understand.

4. I am so flattered that you asked but unfortunately cannot do that. Can I help you brainstorm someone who might be available?

5. Normally, I would say yes, but I have already committed to ________ at the same time.

6. Right now, I am saying no to all invitations (on this topic, at this timeframe, etc.).

7. I need to decline, but warmly request that you keep me in mind for future meetings/events. Would you please reach out again?

8. I try very hard not to make commitments I will likely need to cancel, and because of the timing here, I would likely need to cancel at the last minute, leaving you in a last-minute scramble to find someone else. Because of that, I will need to say no.

9. That sounds like a fantastic event/opportunity/cause, and I know that I will be sorry to miss it.

10. I cannot attend in person, but I wonder how I can help in some other way. Should we brainstorm ideas?

11. I don’t feel that this is the right fit for me. Can I share with you the kinds of project or priorities that DO feel like a good fit for you to know for down the road?

12. I am so grateful for the opportunity and for you thinking of me. However, I am in demand at the moment with appointments made months ago. I can also recommend x and y and z, who would be great

13. I can’t, but let me take a look at who might be available to fill in for me.

14. My schedule is completely booked for the next {insert timeframe}. Would you please reach back out after then?

15. I am so sorry to decline but I have a prior engagement. Here’s what I’d like to do, though: let me put a note in our files indicating that I needed to turn this request down so that next time, I can move your request to the front of the line.

16. Right now, I am only accepting requests related to X priority. Since this request seems to be about Y priority, let me put you in touch with someone who handles Y.

17. I have reached my [weekly/monthly/quarterly/annual] quota for [speaking engagements, consulting, meetings, panels, rallies, etc.]. Things should open up again by [insert month]. Please reach back out to me then.

18. I hate to admit this but I have already said yes to two events that day, and will need to cancel at least one of those. I don’t want to cancel two.

19. I have recently had some unexpected events come up and so I won’t be scheduling anything new at this time.

20. I will be out of town.

21. I don’t do X, as a rule.

22. I’m good at X, but not great at it. Let me suggest some people who are great at it.

23. It sounds like our budgets aren’t in the same ballpark. If you have flexibility, terrific. And if not, I completely understand and know that you’ll find someone great within your price-range.

24. I will need more information to make a decision. Can you please send me….?

25. I adore the cause, but simply can’t commit right now/I need to decline.

26. I don’t know and I don’t want to hold you up so feel free to ask someone else.

27. You’re so kind to think of me. Thank you. Sadly, I need to decline.

28. Not this time. When’s the next opportunity available for something like this?

29. If only I had a clone then I could be in two places at once!

30. I am heads-down on a project right now, and won’t be coming up for air for the next [insert timeframe].

31. When do you need to know by? I ask because if it’s in the next {week/month/quarter], I will need to say no.

32. Right now, I am only saying yes to very select opportunities that fall into [insert area of focus], and unfortunately this doesn’t meet the criteria.

33. I’m not available for that, but I know someone who is working on a common agenda/goal/objective. Let me connect you!

34. Others have made similar requests, and I have said no to all of those.

35. X is my top priority right now, so I am devoting all of my time to that.

36. With x # of this type of request coming in every month, I have had to limit the number of acceptances in order to make time for other business. I am at my limit.

37. I have committed to my clients that X would be my leading priority this year. For that reason, I will need to say no to this invitation in order to make good on my commitment.

38. Thank you so much, but no.
…and just for fun…

10 Things NOT to Say

1. You’re joking, right?

2. I have commitment issues.

3. This request is below my pay grade.

4. I wish I had the luxury of entertaining such a whimsical request.

5. What do I have to say to get you to understand that NO means NO?

6. I no longer commit to causes that make me feel like a hypocrite.

7. As if!

8. Sure, at half-past never.

9. Yuck!

10. N to the O.

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