How to say a “Graceful No”

Someone said a big fat NO to me this week

But she did it so gracefully that it reminded me about a recent conversation I’d had, about starting my business and how you protect your boundaries.

I talked about the ‘graceful no’.

It’s hard, isn’t it – saying no?

How do we embrace a ‘graceful no’?

Here are my thoughts:

  • We say no to the task and yes to the relationship
  • We say no with yes energy
  • We’re graceful and grateful for all that has come before and may happen in the future
  • We think about what we are saying yes to as we say no, and communicate this as honestly and authentically as we can

So this person gave me the most elegant no this week, about a project I was interested in working with her on. I wrote back to her saying, “that was the most elegant no… you’ve reminded me about the art of the graceful no – it might be my next blog post”.

“Do it,” she wrote back.

So here I am.

I used to call it the “Art of the Elegant Pushback” when I was working with execs that were getting overloaded by their bosses, which was about the no-with-yes energy. But now I think the demands that life places on us are everywhere, and not just coming from busy bosses. We all feel overloaded, overstretched and overstimulated, and we need to find the ‘graceful no’s that keep our relationships with others and ourselves intact.

Here’s what she said (abridged version):

  • Thank you so much for asking me to help on your project (gratitude)
  • I have been taking time to reflect, as I have so enjoyed our previous projects and relationship (thoughtful and graceful)
  • I am trying to prioritise these other areas of my business which need more attention and so need to reduce in other areas (in saying no to you I am saying yes to these other areas of my business which matter to me)
  • Therefore I have to say no, but I have someone else amazing lined up for you – would you like me to put you in touch? (thoughtful, graceful, proactive, elegantly solves my problem)
  • And I do hope we will be able to collaborate in future on one of the areas of my business that I am expanding (positive future focus in an area aligned with her new direction)

Absolutely brilliant! And I wish her all the best with her new business, and look forward to collaborations in the future.

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