A tested recipe for saying “no” graciously

Jul 28 2016

by Laura Mixon Camacho

Sometimes you have to close the gates. In the words of Steve Jobs, “I am as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.”

©Kathryn McCrary Photography Atlanta Travel Photographer Waiting on Martha-236
Photo credit: Kathryn McCrary of The Vine Garden Market for The Southern C + Waiting on Martha

Life seems to be so much easier when everyone in your orbit is a happy camper. That’s what makes saying “no” so dang troublesome. You want to say “yes”; you’re thrilled/honored/resigned that they asked you.

But too many “yes” answers mean you end up saying “no” to the best opportunities, including the chance to feel amazing because you got a great night’s sleep last night.

Let’s get down to business, the “no, thank-you” business. The time-tested recipe is this:

Gratitude + “No” + Reason + Encouragement = 1 Gracious “No”

Scenario 1: You’re invited to coffee so someone can “pick your brain.”

The “pick your brain” invite is sometimes worded as an “informational interview.”

It’s flattering, I know. Imagine someone wants your particular advice, the same advice that causes your teenaged daughter’s eyes to roll out of orbit.

It’s wonderful to know that this person wants to grow and do amazing things and that you’re considered a valuable resource.

You want to help. You know what it’s like when starting out. #scaryandoverwhelming

You are already booked to the wazoo and back.

You are exhausted.

What do you say?

(Bonus tip! Write your version of these answers on a document that you can easily copy and paste from.)

You can help AND graciously decline this invitation, just be sure to include these 4 ingredients: 1) gratitude, 2) a definite “no,” 3) a reason for the “no” and 4) encouragement.

For example, you could write a response like this one.

Dear Fan,

[Gratitude] Thank you so much for writing. I am thrilled with your invitation to have coffee with you and answer your questions. I appreciate your being so proactive!

[The “no” & reason] My schedule does not allow me to accept this lovely opportunity. However, I can offer you some resources to help you:

  1. Resource #1 can be your blog or website or an article you wrote.
  2. Resource #2 can be a future speaking engagement on your schedule.
  3. Resource #3 can be a course you are offering, or someone else’s course you would recommend, especially if the writer has specified why s/he wants access to your brain database (oddly enough when you can’t even remember why you came into the kitchen!)

[Encouragement] I appreciate your taking the time to contact me and I wish you every success. I think this resource [1, 2 and/or 3] will help you. I can tell you’re a go-getter!



Scenario 2: You’re invited to be on the board of something, again.

So amazing. They want sweet little you on the board of directors. Or some other honorary role you would love to accept. Except you’re already overbooked and underslept. Your family complaints about never seeing you are getting louder and more frequent.

Dear Fan,

[Gratitude] What an honor to be asked to serve on the board of your fantastic non-profit organization. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am with this invitation.

[“No” and the reason] Because of multiple other commitments, I am declining this awesome opportunity, but I do want to help by a) attending their Big Event or b) sending a $$ donation or c) offering to speak at one of their gatherings.

[Encouragement] Your mission of X is so important to our community and I appreciate the chance to contribute to your work.



Gratitude + “No” + Reason + Encouragement = 1 Gracious No Thank You. Gotta love a Win-Win. You can decline the invitation graciously, help your fan and respect your own time and energy.


Laura Mixon Camacho View More Blog Posts from this Author

Laura Mixon Camacho, PhD, is obsessed with communication as a tool for building bridges and careers. She believes all conversations should be carried out with style and imagination. And public speaking is just a special sort of conversation. Laura creates quirky communication workshops and she does private one-to-one coaching. She is the go-to coach if you want to improve your communication skills to move your business or career forward with more confidence, more impact and less stress. Read more at

Leave a Comment

2 responses on “A tested recipe for saying “no” graciously

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts