Saying no is hard. It’s not just that some people can’t take no for an answer, but sometimes, especially at work, it feels like saying no isn’t an option. For these particular occasions, it’s important to know how to say no without saying no.

Essentially, when you say no without saying no, you’re saying yes with a “but” It’s a yes, with other stipulations which are there to make the yes possible. If you find yourself in a position where you can’t say no, but need to, here are 12 ways to say no without saying no. 

  1. Yes, I’d love to. But if I’m going to do it, I want to make sure I do it well and give it the attention it needs.  – Can we revisit this when I can devote more time to it? (A great way to say no if you’re a perfectionist)
  2. Yes, I’m happy to help, although it’s not my area of expertise. So and so is very experienced with this so perhaps try them first and I’ll help wherever I can. 
  3. Yes of course, If you can fit it into my schedule ( To a colleague) 
  4. Yes I’d be happy to, however, you recently asked me to focus on X project, so please could you advise which one takes priority now, or help me with prioritizing the rest of my workload so that I can ensure everything gets done in a timely fashion ( To your boss) 
  5. Yes, if it can wait until x date when I’ll have more time to devote to it
  6. Yes if you can get the necessary approvals or sign off as it’s not something that’s typically allowed or approved (Don’t you hate when people use this one on you! but sometimes it’s necessary)
  7. Yes if you could support me with completing x project in return
  8. Yes, if it will take x amount of time or less 
  9. Yes, as long as it doesn’t require x ( X can be specific knowledge, resources, approval, etc)
  10. Yes as long as you’ve checked in with so and so 
  11. Yes, if we can work on it together 
  12. Yes…. would be my answer, if I had any way to fit it in. 
  13. Yes, I would love to, but unfortunately, I’m going to have to say no because…

Now that you have a few options on how to say no without saying no, hopefully, you’ll no longer get swamped or overwhelmed with work by saying yes too often.

But if your inability to say no is starting to have a serious negative impact then it might be time to find out How to Conquer Your Fear of Disappointing Others once and for all.