Service ‘No’! Saying No without saying No!

Everyday idioms made easy banner

The Scenario

Imagine a situation where you have been able to wrap up your work at the office earlier than usual. You are about to leave for the day and a colleague or a senior notices you and asks for a favor. A favor that can mean another 2 hours in the office.

Imagine another situation, where a customer makes a request for something. The request is for something you just cannot provide, either due to company policy or because of unavailability.

Finally, imagine a situation where your roommate has decided to get a new pet. They have decided to walk in with a 6ft snake in their arms. All this time you were expecting a new puppy, a (ninja) turtle or at the worst, a mean cat. Yet, nothing has prepared you to confront your biggest fear, i.e. SNAKES.

Now, ask yourself, what would you say? How would you react or respond to this kind of a situation?

The Dilemma

The most obvious, practical and usually given answer is NO. Or maybe a variation, usually like No, Never, Not, Cannot, Unfortunately, Regrettably, or I am sorry to inform you.

Human beings do not like being told No. They don’t like being refused and they don’t like it when they are turned away without getting what they came for. Whether as a child or as an adult, the response to a NO is usually one of anger, irritation, and dissatisfaction. It is a natural and very common response.

Hence, the challenge that we face is not about how to avoid saying no and potentially make someone angry. There are times in life where one must say no, one must refuse and one must stand by their decisions.

At these times the true challenge is to say no, and not let the listener feel bad about it either. The art of saying no without alienating or upsetting the listener is one that we can learn to master with a little practice and presence of mind.

The Solution

Since a flat-out refusal is not an option, the solution is a Service ‘No’. A Service ‘No’ is being able to mean NO without saying the words No, Never, Not, Cannot, Unfortunately, Regrettably, or I am sorry to inform you. A Service ‘No’ should include a polite refusal, a reason for refusal and an alternative solution. 

  1. Polite Refusal: Instead of a No, Never, Not Etc, one can always say “I would be unable to…” Instead of telling somebody that you Will not, Would not or Cannot do something, telling them that you would be unable to assist them, help them, or do something would soften the effect and not make the listener instantly hostile and angry. A reason to explain your inability would further help the listener to empathize with you and not shift the blame to you.
  2. Reason for Refusal: Explaining the reason for the refusal helps the relationship further. Once a listener is given the reason for your inability to do something, they are able to understand your position and appreciate it. Most conflicts arise from a breakdown in communications, or a lack of communications. A reason or explanation can strengthen your position as an open and honest person. A polite refusal and a reason can take you farther than a Simple No. But the task is not done. To ensure that this listener trusts you and doesn’t feel cheated, an alternative solution must be given.
  3. Alternative Solution: An alternative solution, is at times not as useful as what they demanded, but can help the listener understand that you have a good intention and are a pro-active person. If we do not have an alternative or variation of the original demand, we can always be pro-active with information about the services/products that you do offer, so that the listener is able to make a better decision in the future.

Some handy examples when we have to say NO are:

Customer Vs You

Customer: I will need a refund for that as soon as possible, but I will not be able to send the product back.

You: I understand your problem sir/ma’am, however, I would be unable to process a refund for this order, as our system requires the product to be returned to the warehouse before a refund can be processed.

What I can do for you is that I can send you all the possible dates when we can have the product collected from your location, and you can let us know what would be the most convenient time for the same.

I can also process a refund once you send the product back using a shipping/delivery of your choice, and we can compensate you for the shipping costs borne by you.

Boss Vs You

Boss: Hi! I need a favour. I need you to stay back after 8 pm and finish this last minute alteration/ update/ task so that it is ready for tomorrow.

You: I understand the urgency sir/ma’am, however, I would be unable to stay back after work today as I have a prior engagement/ some urgent work at home/ have to be somewhere.

What I can do is that I can finish it by coming a little early/ finish it first thing tomorrow/ have it completed by tomorrow/ explain the client that we would need a day to get the job done properly.

The Conclusion

Saying No to someone does not need to be a painful or awkward task and neither does it have to be a reason for unpleasantness. A No can be said gracefully, politely and comfortably. Remember the golden rules of Service ‘No’ and never be obligated or forced to say agree ever again, and for more such tips and tricks, visit us at

Everyday english in 50 days

Like this article?

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Linkdin
Share on Pinterest


Leave a Reply

Explore More


    In a world rife with endless distractions, the question and challenge remain how to be more productive at work and in life. The


Synonyms always help us sound more creative in any conversation. It not makes us a sound speaking but also boasts our confidence. There a many

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get updates and learn from the best

error: Content is protected !!
%d bloggers like this: