How to say “No” effectively

Requests for your time (and, perhaps more importantly, your energy) come fast and furious during business school. It can be very easy to unthinkingly agree to those requests – after all, these are your friends, and what’s more, it’s flattering how much they want to work with you! However, to ensure that you’re leaving enough time and energy for the tasks that are most important to you, you must learn how to say NO to some of those requests.

1. Just be honest“I’m glad you thought of me for this leadership role, but I’m really focused on [recruiting/student group/classes] right now.” Your classmates will certainly understand where you’re coming from – especially if you combine this tactic with the next one below.

2. Suggest an alternate time frame“I’d love to help decide on topics for the lunch & learn series, but I just can’t commit to it this quarter. Can you pencil me in for next quarter instead?” Your desire to help will be noted – and the asker will know not to come to again until next quarter.

3. Search for wiggle room“Is it really vital that this panel happen this month with five speakers? – if we could plan on next month with three speakers, I could probably help you with that.” If it turns out the request isn’t really as urgent or as huge as your classmate is making it sound, perhaps you will decide you have time for it – and if not, you may give your classmate some insight into how he or she should be framing this request!

4. Make it work for you“I’d love to help you with some mock interviews! – and can you please do the same for me?” In some circumstances, before you say no, you might want to stop and think whether the request might actually be to your benefit. Many favors can be returned in a way that will actually benefit you in a long run.