How to Disappoint Others Gracefully

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by Dana on August 16, 2013

Do you ever struggle with how to say no to others—in a way that feels comfortable for you?

As business owners, we’re often conditioned to say YES to opportunities that come our way…but sometimes those opportunities don’t align with our goals and top priorities. If you’ve ever found yourself saying yes to something and then kicking yourself afterwards, be sure to check out this 4-step process for disappointing others gracefully (complete with template scripts to use!).

Step 1: Let the people in your life know that you’re changing the rules of the game.

Be proactive and let your family, friends and colleagues know that you’re working on honoring your priorities and using your time more effectively. Warn them that there may be times when you will need to say no going forward (when you may have said yes in the past).

Step 2: Take the pressure off by putting some space between the request and your answer.

When someone makes a request for your time, respond with one of the following statements.

  •  “I’ll need to get back to you.”
  • “I’ll need to check my schedule before I commit.”
  • “I’ll need to sleep on it.” 

Step 3: Check in with yourself.

Ask yourself…

  • Is this aligned with your current priorities & goals (what I often refer to as the items on your “Hell Yes!” list)?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how much do you really want to do this?
  • If you knew that this person wouldn’t be disappointed or upset, what would you say?

Note: There will always be times when you do things for the people you love that you might not be thrilled about in order to help or support them, but make sure you’re doing it out of love and not out of guilt or a sense of obligation. The latter will only result in resentment.

Step 4: If the answer is no, craft your response in advance and practice it.

Here are 3 keys to a great response:

  1. Be considerate & polite, but also clear & assertive.
  2. Be brief. (Remember: No is a complete sentence!)
  3. Don’t overexplain or appear wishy-washy.

Still struggling with what to say? Try one of these sample scripts…

  • “Sorry. I’d love to help out, but I don’t have the bandwidth right now.” 
  • “I’m focusing on taking care of myself and spending more time at home so I need to pass.”
  • “I have a rule that I never take on anything unless I can make a full commitment to it and I don’t believe I can in this case.”
  • “I’m not able to do that right now, but thank you for thinking of me.” 
  • “I can’t do that for you right now, but if you can wait a few weeks, I’ll be able to help you out.”


I’d love to hear…Have you had difficulties saying no in the past? What do you think of this process? Do you have any additional tips to share? Please go ahead and post in the comments below…


Elaine Uskoski August 22, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Great advice. I use a similar method when teaching clients. I am passionate about helping women say no, without guilt and learn to self nurture. I also suggest saying “At this time this doesn’t feel right for me” or “At this time this isn’t a good fit for me”. Bottom line – self respect, honour what feels good for you first.

Dana August 24, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Awesome! Thanks for sharing, Elaine! :)