Notes - How to gracefully say No

October 3, 2020

When we have strong internal clarity it is almost as if we have a force field protecting us from the nonessentials coming at us from all directions.


  • Avoids saying no to avoid feeling social awkwardness and pressure
  • Says yes to everything


  • Dares to say no firmly, resolutely, and gracefully
  • Says yes only to the things that really matter

Guidelines for delivering the graceful no

  • Separate the decision from the relationship
  • Saying no gracefully doesn’t have to mean using the word “no”
  • Focus on the trade-off
  • Remind yourself that everyone is selling something
  • Make your peace with the fact that saying no often requires trading popularity for respect
  • Remember that a clear no can be more graceful than a vague or non-committal yes

The No Repertoire

Essentialists don’t say no just occasionally. It is a part of their regular repertoire. To consistently say no with grace, it helps to have a variety of responses to call upon. Below are eight responses you can put in your no repertoire:

  • The awkward pause
  • The soft no (or the no but)
  • Let me check my calendar and get back to you.
  • Use e-mail bouncebacks.
  • Say, Yes. What should I deprioritize?
  • Say it with humor.
  • Use the words You are welcome to X. I am willing to Y.
  • I can’t do it, but X might be interested.


These notes are from the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown (Chapter #11)


These notes might be very contextual if you haven’t read the book.

Tags: checklist essentialist self-help

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