Does declining an offer or refusing a request make you feel uncomfortable? Many people find it hard to say “no.” Whether it’s because they want to be seen as a team player or they don’t want to disappoint a colleague or client, saying “no” is often difficult.

Sometimes, though, saying “yes” comes with consequences. For example, agreeing to something might mean sacrificing your values or giving up on your personal time. There are many times when you need to respectfully push back, says Celestine Chua, founder of the Personal Excellence blog.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we highlight Chua’s top tips for saying “no” to others.

Just say it. If you know you want to say “no,” don’t avoid it. Say something like, “I’m sorry I can’t attend that meeting” or “I’ll pass this round, but thanks.” The longer you put it off, the more pressure you will feel, Chua notes.

Be sincere. Many people avoid saying “no” because they don’t want to burn bridges. However, Chua points out that most people will accept your rejection if you are sincere about it. Just be up front and honest by saying, “I’m sorry I’m busy with [X] and can’t commit to this” or “This isn’t what I’m looking for. Sorry.”

Consider the request instead of the person. It becomes much easier to say “no” when you focus on what is being asked of you rather than who is asking. Do you have the bandwidth or budget to agree or attend? Is the request something you can realistically do? If the answer is “no,” then decline it.

Stay upbeat. Saying “no” does not mean you are ruling out a relationship. Even if you cannot agree to a colleague’s or prospect’s request right now, you should still keep the options open, says Chua. Let the other person know you would love to reconnect down the line to talk about possible collaborations or opportunities.

Offer an alternative. Is there a different option that might work? If so, tell the other person what you might be able to do instead. Just remember to only present an alternative if one exists—don’t use it as a crutch for not saying “yes,” notes Chua.

Prioritize your own health and happiness. Too many people say “yes” because they don’t want to make someone else feel bad or they don’t want to leave someone in a lurch. Instead of bending over backward for someone else, think about what you need to be successful and feel happy. You are not responsible for protecting the feelings of everyone around you.

Let go when needed. Don’t maintain relationships just to avoid conflict. If you find yourself working with someone who constantly drains you or who expects you to always agree, find out how you can work with a new contact.

Unless you learn how to say “no” sometimes, you risk the constant pressure of making everyone else happy. You can succeed at work, avoid burnout and create a more fulfilling life when you stop immediately agreeing to every request that comes your way. Remember that you are not rude or combative when you “no,” but you are alerting others that you are in control of how you spend your time.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

Source: Celestine Chua is founder of the Personal Excellence blog, where she shares advice on how to increase productivity and achieve excellence in life.