Saying No

  1. Be clear, kind, and concise.
  2. Apologize briefly if you want, but it is fine to refuse a request, and you don’t need to feel guilty about it.
  3. If you know you need to refuse, do it quickly. Pretending to think about it just wastes everybody’s time.

Here’s a script:

Dear Susan,

Thank you for inviting me to be on the board of your vermiculture enterprise. I am very sorry, but I have to decline. This does not reflect the importance of your work. Worms are vital, and I wish you every success.



Note: This is firm, long-term no. The letter apologizes, but doesn’t go into detail about the reasons for the rejection.

Here’s another:

Dear Larry,

Thank you for inviting me to be on the global health team. I’m very busy right now, but I’d love to be involved in the future. Please keep in touch.



Note: This is a soft, short-term no. It leaves you the option of saying yes in the future and invites future contact.

Here’s the last one:

Dear Elisha,

Thank you for your email. I’m not an expert on potato farming, and I am not the right fit for your board. I would recommend you reach out to people with a background in agriculture.



Note: This is a very firm no.