Brain Food: Your route to the top - If you can't say yes ...

Start with no. Being clear at the beginning of the conversation sets the context and reduces any later confusion. It also shows you value the other person as an equal, not someone around whom you need to tread softly.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Practice makes perfect. Make sure you run through what you're going to say. Get it clear in your head so it doesn't come out in a garbled fashion.

Give your reasons. Don't try to soften your rationalisations in fancy language or coat them in sugar. Be clear on why you can't help. The clearer the message, the more likely it is that it will be understood.

Ask questions. Listen, and give the other person the chance to air what they think and feel.

Acknowledge their situation. Stick to your guns, but show that you understand - 'I know you are very busy with work and the kids, but I'm sorry, I can't help out this time.' It is emotions rather than facts that tend to make saying no difficult.

Reassure them. We often take a rejection personally. Be sure to show specifically why you need to say no and confirm that it doesn't mean you think any less of them as a person.

Own up. Have you created unrealistic expectations? Take responsibility and clarify the situation. If the truth is that you're short on time, tell them. They will respect your honesty.

Offer constructive options. Suggest possibilities for the future, but make sure these are realistic. If the candidate isn't right for the company, don't close by saying that you hope your paths cross again sometime.

Play the long game. Don't worry too much about their immediate response. They may well be upset at first, but they will come round in due course.


Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

Why your turnaround is failing

Be careful where you look for advice.

Crash course: How to find hidden talent

The best person for the role might be closer than you think.

What they don't tell you about flexible working

The realities of ditching the nine to five don't always live up to the hype....

The business case for compassion: Nando's, Cisco and Innocent Drinks

Consciously, systematically humane cultures reap enormous benefits, argues academic Amy Bradley.

“I have great respect for the capital markets, but I don’t want their ...

Exclusive: PA Consulting CEO Alan Middleton on acquisition bids, growth strategy and life after private...

Dame Inga Beale: “I was told I didn’t deserve to be alive”

The former CEO of Lloyd's of London reveals the leadership lessons that shaped her career...