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Monica Wofford, CSP, is a professional speaker and CEO of Contagious Companies, a training and consulting firm that develops better leaders and trains managers how to become better leaders.

It’s simple. Saying no, doesn’t have to feel like such a blow to their ego.

Yep, its official, the holiday season is upon us and that means more and more requests for your time to attend a whole new season of social events. Even the most well organized, time management efficient leader finds it hard to juggle all the events you’re invited to, so this Monday Moment will help you say no where you need to…AND do it in a way that still gets you invited back next year!

Use Gratitude

This is simply a way of being gracious and also firm when you say no to someone or some invitation. It would sound like this “Thank you so much for the invitation. I appreciate the offer and would like to still be included next time you have this event. I’m not able to attend this time.”

Lose your but

Did you notice how there wasn’t a “but” in the gratitude statement? You’re not saying “Thank you, but…” as the but simply negates your gratitude. Anytime you insert a “but” into a sentence, it cancels what you said before that word. Think of telling your spouse “I love you, but…”; not a good plan, when talking to colleagues, employees, or your spouse, lose your but.

Speak their language

Much of how you say no, or say anything actually in a leadership capacity, is going to be heard in the language of the person to whom you are speaking. If you want them to hear your intent you want to speak in the language they use which is about their personality. People oriented Relaters and Entertainers want to know that you and they still get along and to be appreciated for the invitation. Task oriented Commanders will want you to get to the point and similarly, so will Organizer preferences who also want to know why you can’t do it.

Use your head or a facial expression

Sometimes saying no, just takes a look. Do you lead your facial expressions? Of course you do, but be careful if you’re one who shows all you feel on your face. In this case, maybe it’s just a smile that indicates I wish I could. If your face says “I’m annoyed that you’re asking” this too, will come through so pay attention to what they will see on your face and remember their intent is usually positive.

Counter offer

If an employee asks you to attend their Christmas party at their house and your company allows for no leader and employee fraternization, you’ll have to say no. In that process, however, you don’t want to crush their interest in including you and giving you the compliment of inviting you into their personal world. Provide a counter offer with something such as “I can’t attend that one. What if, instead, we have a small gathering of the team for lunch here?”

Make a recommendation

Invitations and requests for your time to which you must say no aren’t always about holiday lunches or parties. Sometimes a colleague may ask you to take on a new assignment or project for which you just don’t have the time. Don’t stress yourself out. Set a boundary and make an alternate recommendation. Perhaps it sounds like “What if, I simply oversee the person that you choose to lead this project and we set up monthly check in meetings instead of my being the one in charge?”

Few leaders relish the chance to say no and some are better at it than others, but these six steps will put you in a better position to simply decline and not create an entirely new need for damage control because of the way you said no. The simple truth is you just can’t do everything and there are only 24 hours in a day, buuuuttt, along with that truth is the need to respect those who show you the honor of the invitation.

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week, an even better Monday, and of course, stay contagious!


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