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Is There a “But”? How to Reject Without Saying No

  • I would love to go to your event, but I already made dinner plans.
  • You did a great job with your interview, but we extended the offer to someone who did better.
  • I think you are a great person, but I am not attracted to you in that way
  • I really enjoyed the time being with you, but I made the decision to leave you.

These are the common situations we have to deal with day-to-day, and it can be awkward, difficult, nerve-racking, embarrassing, and you might feel guilty, uncomfortable, or even ashamed to have to put someone else in that situation. And you are also afraid of BEING PUT in such situations, and many times you wonder, “Is there a but, again?” even though the other person talks all positives.

But you have to deal with it, and the first thing you need to do is to be CERTAIN that this is something you want to do (rejecting). And then it’s about the techniques on how to be articulate about it, and here goes the formula:

Multiple “and” phrases

+ Addresses feelings

+ Suggest alternatives


Now let me give you a few examples:


Saying NO to an invitaion

It’s not supposed to be challenging in most cases, and usually something like “I’d love to” + “but I can’t” would do. But in a situation that it is more complicated than that, especially if the person inviting you is someone important or if you already promised to go previously, try something like this:

Multiple “and” phrases

Hey thanks so much for inviting me. And it looks like a great event at a great venue, and I really want to go, and I see that XXX is going to be there too and I didn’t know you guys know each other that is so exciting, etc etc.

Address feelings

I know you have put a lot of work into this, and I know I haven’t seen you for a while, but it is really a hard decision for me as well you know my parents happen to be in town this coming weekend and it’s their first time coming to the US, and I really promised to show them around. I am sure you will understand.

Suggest Alternatives

But you know what? How about we get together the weekend after this to celebrate how great an event you just thrown? I know this great bar restaurant and some of my other friends might be interested too, I will keep you posted and have fun at your event!


Turning someone DOWN for an opportunity

Multiple “and” phrases

So I want to inform you the decision on who will be going to London for the project and it was really a hard decision not just for me but for all the senior managers involved in the process, and we think you both did a great job, and I especially like your idea of XXX.

Address feelings

I know you have put a lot of work into your proposal and there’re a lot of early mornings and late nights and we all see that. The reason why we eventually decided to select Jason was because he led a very similar project last year before he transferred to our group, and I’m sure you agree too that experience would help with a project so complicated like this.

Suggest Alternatives

We are definitely impressed with the quality of the proposal and presentation you put on the table, and I know you expressed interest several times to work internationally. It’s the beginning of the year so a lot of good things could happen. Let’s talk again in the next couple of weeks to see if there are any other similar opportunities elsewhere.


Rejecting or ENDING a relationship

Finally, this is probably the toughest of all, but this is really the one situation you can take advantage of the above techniques in a wholistic way and really apply to your personal needs, protect yourself, and at the same time, be conscious about the other person’s feelings. And let me try this again:

Combining all

You know we’ve been quarreling a lot in the last couple of months and it really makes me rethink about our relationship. You know I am very attracted to you and it’s been great spending time with you and I really enjoyed everything we shared and experienced. Given what happened recently however, I need you to understand that I have come to a decision that it’s better for us to become friends. Personality compatibility is something very important for me in a relationship and I think both of us have been struggling, and it will be unfair for you if I simply hide my doubts and worries. So I want to be honest with you and I want to let you know you have been very special for me, and this decision has nothing to do with who you are as a person or how I have felt about you emotionally.

I understand this is hard for you, and believe me it is very hard for me as well, and I really put a lot of thinking into it; but I firmly believe this is the right thing to do for both of us, and I need you to respect me the same way I would respect you. I am happy to continue to be a friend and I am sure I’ll see you again at some other event around town.


Hope you will apply this soon to the next situation you need to articulate a different rejection! Smile and good luck!


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