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How to say NO without Saying NO?!

As administrative professionals, especially those who manage calendars, you are constantly being asked to schedule this meeting or that event or there is someone unexpectedly who wants some of your manager’s time.

You face an onslaught of emails every day. It is never-ending story yet is our job to handle it. Let me guess, you use that word “Unfortunately” a lot, right? I sure did early in my career.


Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

My executive wanted to ‘seem’ accessible to the world even though I knew that was just not a reality. I had to say “No” a lot. In fact, to be candid, I had become quite “robotic” and callus when it came to declining an email request, sometimes not even completely reading the email through before just firing off the response.

I want to give you something simple, easy to use – a strategy that not only creates a successful communication experience for the receiver but it also creates a positive brand for you and your leader. It is how to say “No” without ever using that word.

In my continued development in communication skills (thank you Ingrid

Gudenas of Effective Training Solutions) I realized the importance of making others feel I had heard them in my email communications, even if they were not going to receive the answer they wanted. I learned how to say “No” without ever using that word. I had amazing success.

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Ingrid Gudenas, CEO, Effective Training Solutions

Here is my secret that I want to share with you. It’s really a simple process:

  1. First, read the email and then type out your response as you normally would using the typical negative words or phrases such as “not available,” “unfortunately” or “can’t make it work”.

  2. Secondly, re-read the email and re-write it:

    1. Acknowledge the person’s request “sincerely”. “Thank you for sharing information about your event. I can tell you are excited about it and why you reached out to ask my leader to be a speaker” 

    2. Take out any negative language and insert positive words or phrases Note: Negative words can include:

      1. But

      2. Unfortunately

      3. Can’t

      4. I’ll be honest with you

      5. I’m sorry

    3. Re-write the email and review again to make sure you have scrubbed out the negative words and replaced them with positive phrases:

      1. My leader wanted you to know that his focus right now is to work on a number of business and personal priorities which are eating up a tremendous amount of his time. He has indicated that he wants to concentrate on those for the time being.

      2. He wishes you enormous success on your event! Yes, it does take time however you will get better and better at it until it becomes a habit AND…you will leave a positive impression that is not forgotten.

Yours Truly,

Debbie Gross


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