That’s a No from me.

Saying “No” can be really difficult. Whether you are a people pleaser or simply struggle with setting boundaries, the word “No” is something which can be impossible to say. During this blog, I wanted to give a few tips for what you can do to learn to say “No” and how to show this from a position of strength rather than appearing inflexible. I’ve asked industry experts for their advice and how they approach this situation in their daily life.

Practice it!

If you struggle with just saying “No” then spend some time looking in the mirror and saying it to yourself. Look yourself in the eye and say it to yourself. “No”. “No, Thank you”. “No, because…” This can help with your self confidence to be able to help you say “No”, without it coming from a position of weakness. If you are struggling with self confidence, it can help to understand “why” you don’t want to do the project. This can then help with explaining this to your boss with clear reasons and justification.

“When you say Yes to something, we are saying No to something else”

Anita Phagura says that it’s important to share the consequences of what it means to say “No”. An example being: “I will be unable to meet the following objectives, if I accept the project that you want me to do”. You can also answer any question with another question as: “Yes, I’d be happy to do this but what will be taken off my current list of priorities to accommodate this?”.

Allowing the other person to realise the consequences of an action, can help them understand why you are saying No and that you are not simply being stubborn.

The Art of Negotiation

Naomi Caietti suggests that learning to negotiate this path is all about the ‘art of negotiation’ which every Project Manager undertakes and learns from the start of their career but instead suggests that whilst there is never a ‘perfect project’, do you really need to say No? Every project is a learning opportunity and are stepping stones to larger projects that provide Project Managers with more in depth experience leading cross functional/ virtual. She suggests the following:

  • Make the first offer
  • Listen more, talk less
  • Make sure that both sides ‘win’

Let me think about that?

I think it’s really important to also think about the option that is being presented to you. What does it entail? What would you need to be a success? Do you really understand what is expected of you?

Taking the time to analyse what the task really entails can help make sure that the other party knows that you’ve seriously considered what is being presented and why you may or may not be the best fit for it. I do think that it is important to be selective in your choice of task so that you are spending your time on quality rather than quantity tasks and objectives.

When I am being presented a new project, I read through the Executive Statement and talk to colleagues to understand what the project is about and if I’m the right fit to lead it. I have many skills and talents but I do realise that there may be another Project Manager who is better suited to lead it and that does not show weakness but rather a deeper understanding of my skillset and the needs of the project and organisation.

What can you say?

If you’re trying to find some reasons for how to say no, Sarah Woods suggest some of the following:

  • Be honest for why you do not want the project
  • You know, this will not be the best use of my skills. You will not get the best of me
  • I could do this, but it will mean X,y,z is delayed
  • This project would clash with my personal values
  • I could do this project but I would need additional time /training because this is a new area for me
  • Sure, I’m happy to bridge the gap but I do not want to do this permanently. Can we timebox my involvement?
  • I’m feeling a little demotivated, can we look for something that is more challenging for me


No, does not need to be a negative. No, can be for the best of the organisation or project. No can also mean that you are prioritising your current projects to meet the objectives that have already been set.

What do you think? Are you happy to say no? or do you find it difficult?

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