How To Use A “No” Template To Make It Easier To Say No

And what to say when you create one.

You can’t say yes to everything.

You know you need to turn down people, opportunities, and requests that aren’t the best use of your time.

The successful creators whose advice I share in For The Interested each week all seem to have figured this out.

But it’s tough to do so.

You don’t want to let people down, come off like a jerk, or say no to something that might lead to something great.

I get it. I’ve been there.

These feelings lead us to say yes when we’d be better served to say no.

The best way to break that tendency is to remove as much friction as possible from the process of saying no.

And to do that, it helps to create a “No” template.

What’s A “No” Template?

A “No” template is a response — or collection of responses — you draft before you’re asked a question so you have them on hand to use whenever you want to decline something.

It only takes a few minutes to draft one and having a template at the ready removes the friction of trying to figure out what to say and how to say it when the moment comes to turn something down.

The easier it is to say no, the more likely you are to do so.

Take a few minutes to draft a templated response you can use to say no to things and keep it handy in your email drafts folder, a Google doc, or some place easy to grab when you need it.

Then cut, paste, and tweak it as needed whenever you want to say no.

A few things to keep in mind when drafting your No Template…

You Don’t Need To Apologize For Saying No

People have every right to ask you for things and you have every right to decline them. 

No need to feel guilty or apologize when you say no.

“I Don’t” Is Better Than “I Can’t”

“I can’t” implies you don’t have control of your own decisions.

It’s also a lie — you could say yes if you wanted to, but you’re choosing to say no.

“I don’t” implies you’re in control of your time and priorities. 

It leaves less wiggle room and makes people less likely to try to convince or guilt you into reversing your decision.

For example: 

“I don’t do business calls on weekends” is a better response than “I can’t do a business call this weekend.”

Less Is More

Your “No” template isn’t a novel.

A few simple sentences is plenty to express what you need to get across.

Writing 1,000 words of excuses won’t help you or the person you’re turning down.

Create Different “No” Templates For Different Needs

You probably have several types of recurring requests you get and each may require a different version of “No.”

As you encounter various requests, save your responses as templates for future use.

Try A “No” With A Redirect

You can use your “No” template to redirect people into the kind of requests you’d say yes to.

For example, when someone asks to “pick my brain” over coffee, my answer is typically no.

But my templated response to that request redirects them into things I’d say yes to — either a paid consulting offer or answering a couple specific questions for free via email.

Here’s what that looks like…

My “No, You Can’t Pick My Brain” Template


Thanks for your interest! There are a few ways I may be able to help you:

1. I offer 90-minute consulting calls for a $XXX fee.

2. I can work with you to develop a custom strategy to accomplish your goals. This is typically a two-month commitment for a fee of $X,XXX per month, but ultimately depends a bit on what you need.

3. If those options are out of your budget, send me a couple specific questions and I’ll be happy to give you a little free advice.

Let me know what you may be interested in and we can discuss next steps.


PS – You also might find This Is How I Do It helpful.

The above response allows me to give a clear, polite response to requests I need to decline and redirects the people who asked into various things which I will agree to do and ways I can help them.

It turns a no into a yes — for them and me.

That’s the magic of a strong “No” template. 

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