10 Respectful (and Mindful) Ways to Say “No” or “Not Now”

“The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.” –Warren Buffett

In the current education environment, you are fielding more requests than you could ever possibly fulfill in a day, month or year. Given what you’re up against, you should actually be saying “no” more than you’re saying “yes”, although the opposite is typically true.

In Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, the author states that “Saying no is its own leadership capability. It is not just a peripheral skill. As with any ability, we start with limited experience.”

Learning to say “no” or “not now” respectfully and mindfully is a skill-set that all Breakthrough Coach practitioners should cultivate to support their personal well-being, self-respect, and sanity. But to articulate “no” well, you need a variety of responses, preferably a few that incorporate the use of TBC’s REQUEST FORM. Try adding these to your playlist today:

  1. ADMIN: That sounds like an interesting idea AND I need time to think it through with you. Could you please write it down for me on this REQUEST FORM, so I don’t forget, and then make an appointment with me in the next week to talk more about it in depth. Thank you.
  2. ADMIN or SCTY: I can hear in your voice that you’re really committed to X. The person in our organization who is the expert in how to take care of X is (NAME). I’ll make an introduction between the two of you and you both can talk. Please write down what you need on this REQUEST FORM so I have all the details correct when I talk to (NAME), and I’ll make sure (he/she) calls you back in 48 hours. Thank you.
  3. SCTY: Wow! I hear your concern. At this moment I am involved in X for about the next (#) hours, AND I want to give you my full attention. Please write down what you need on this REQUEST FORM so I have all the details to consider, and I promise to get back to you about this in (#) hours. Thank you.
  4. SCTY: (PRINCIPAL NAME) is, right now, observing classrooms for the next (#) hours to make sure what’s happening for students is what’s supposed to be happening. Let’s make an appointment for the two of you to talk.
  5. ADMIN: Sounds great AND I have a ZOOM/phone appointment scheduled to start in 2 minutes. Please write down what you need on this REQUEST FORM and hand it off to (SCTY’S NAME). S/He’ll make sure I see and consider it in Daily Meeting tomorrow.
  6. ADMIN to SUPERVISOR: I’ve been informed by my secretary about the meeting you called on (date). Just know, I have scheduled myself to observe classrooms on that day from (time) to (time). Obviously, I can’t be in two places at once, and being in classrooms is the most important work right now, wouldn’t you agree? So, I am sending (NAME) to the meeting in my place, and he/she will debrief me the following day.
  7. ADMIN: I like where you’re going with this idea AND, at this moment in time, the highest priority around here is X because of (explanation). If you want, we could set up a meeting in # weeks/months to talk about this again, and brainstorm how YOU could bring your idea to fruition in the future.
  8. SCTY: I understand you need to meet with (PRINCIPAL NAME) about X. Here’s how I’m going to get you the time you need. (PRINICPAL NAME) wants to tour classrooms with you on (DAY) for (# minutes), and then he/she instructed me to schedule you two to meet for 15 minutes in his/her office afterwards. Which day would you prefer to do that? A or B?
  9. ADMIN: I understand you’re on a deadline, but so were (NAME), (NAME) and (NAME) when they asked me/my staff to do X, Y and Z, and I promised them I/we would do it. That’s what’s in my immediate queue right now. We will finish X, Yand Z by (DATE), and then we will begin to address your request.
  10. ADMIN: Let me remind you that you already have me/my staff working on X, Y, Z, A and B, which is currently taking us (#hours/days) this week. I really don’t have space to add one more thing to the list. Which one – X,Y,Z, A or B – do you want me to let go of for now so I can address this new item?