How To Make People Like You (Even When You Say “No”)

In the workplace you sometimes need to say “No”.  Here are some tips to do it nicely…

Smile and Make Eye-Contact

The smile is the universal symbol of happiness, and it will give you an instant connection to the other person.  It will make you feel better, as well as influencing others around you. 99% of the time the other person will smile back.  The smile will be real – it’s your reward for saying “No” and recognizing that your workload and commitments don’t permit you to say “Yes”.  

A smile is so powerful it can change the mood of a group of people without a word.”  


Eye contact will let the other person know that you are listening to what is being said.  It shows you are focused on the conversation and are interested. Your eyes will also reinforce your smile and help make the other person feel comfortable.

Body Language and Posture is imperative.

Standing straight and relaxed shows the other person that you are approachable.  Crossing your arms across your chest is a negative message and sends a signal to someone that you are ready for a confrontation.  Do you really want to put a barrier between yourself and the other person, especially if you want to deny someone’s request? Relax your arms and show willingness to listen.

Listen and respond appropriately.

Show the other person that you are listening by summarizing what has just been said.  Ask questions related to the topic. Be sure to request clarification so that things are not misunderstood.  These are all examples of active listening techniques that will make your co-worker feel important. Listening has more impact especially if you need to decline.  You want to let the other person down easily; have them understand that what they need is essential; but unfortunately out of your ability or time constraints.

Say “No” with grace.

No one wants to say “No” and be thought of as the bad guy.  We all want to say “Yes” and have people like us. In life and especially in a work environment, tasks and projects aren’t always possible.  Learn to say “No”, but do it with consideration of the receiving party. Remember – you are saying “No” to the request, not to the person.

How do you decline something that you don’t want to do?


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