How To Say "No" Via Email? Tips To Reject, But Not Offend

It could be a psychologically exhausting task to say "no" via email. The reason for exhaustion is that saying "no" makes you feel guilty about not being able to keep a promise or certain expectation from the other party. However, sometimes not being able to say "yes" is alright than forcefully letting yourself to say "yes" to something that you don’t intend to do. We hurt ourselves by agreeing into doing something which we do not wish to do.

We can have our own share of commitments to friends and family and in spite of that things may get real awkward, when you have to choose between doing something and not doing something. For instance: You want to celebrate your marriage anniversary with your spouse and you are also invited to an office party which is organized by your senior business partner on the same day. Now, either you have to say "no" to your family which includes your son and spouse or you have to say "no" to your close business associate. These are critical choices, but what is even more critical is - to communicate these choices through written communication.

It becomes challenging to say "no" and especially when the "no" is communicated in writing via email. We live in a society and in our social life we are bound by certain expectations from our associates, friends and family.

How To Say No Via Email

In this article, we will consider some practical tips on how to say "no" via email.

1. Be Assertive

Firstly, we have to be convinced that it is alright to say "no" to requests which are unacceptable to you. In order to have that conviction we should practice 3 things:

  • Be sure about your own priorities
  • Appreciate your own concern against others
  • Remember that you cannot make everyone happy

Secondly, we should be able to present ourselves in an assertive manner. This does not necessarily mean being rude but it certainly means all of the above mentioned 3 things: prioritize, acknowledge your concern and be responsible for you cannot make everyone happy.

For instance: Your friend writes a request to you on email. He indicates that he would like to borrow your laptop because he needs it to work on his spouse's client presentation. He also mentions that his spouse has accidentally damaged her laptop.

In such a scenario, a wrong response would be to get angry and write:

Dear friend,

Please do not write about such requests because I am not liable for your personal or official problems in any way. I am sorry for being rude, but I hope you are convinced. Thank you.

Alternatively a better way of responding to such a request is thinking about your friend's concern about his wife and acknowledging it. And then, writing to him:

Dear John Carter,

Thank you for writing to me about your laptop requirement. However, as a general rule I do not believe in lending or borrowing my valuables. I hope you understand my concern.

I wish all the success to your wife Joanna for her client presentation.

Best Regards,

Ricky Noble

2. Avoid negatives

Considering the above example, we can appreciate that the first response sounds too negative and discouraging; whereas, the second response shows courtesy by acknowledging and addressing your friend John's concern along with his wife Joanna's requirement. By avoiding negatives, you can save yourself from dissatisfaction, loss of time, and the creation of a hostile atmosphere between you and your friends.

3. Compassion

In the above example, it is also observed that a genuineness of not being able to share the laptop with the friend is established. It is not even a reason that is mentioned in the alternative email. But the way the email is written makes all the difference. The email communicates compassion, sincerity and courtesy towards the friend.

4. Offer an alternative

Ideally, it is good to offer an alternative solution to the problem, but there is no need to go out of the way to offer the solution. For instance: In the above situation, if it were possible Ricky would offer to get his friend John's laptop repaired from a vendor or Ricky could help John in getting the insurance claim for the laptop damage.

5. Don't be guilty

It is easier said than done but really, there is no need to feel guilty; because in most cases there is nothing that you can do. At the very most, you can offer an alternative solution to your friend. Hence, it is good practice to be responsive and courteous rather than feeling guilty and being angry at self. Anger as an emotion is okay to be expressed but anger should be shown very sparingly. Anger damages the nervous system and it spreads like fire, consequently burning all the connecting bridges.

Thus, it can be observed from the above mentioned illustration and tips that composing your email response in a courteous manner can make a huge difference in the quality of communication between you and intended recipient.

E-mail Etiquettes: Do's and Don'ts

How to say "No"?

You are requested to join an online group by a friend, or be part of an online business.

  • Wrong:

    I don't see why you ask me? I think you are asking the wrong person!

  • Right:

    It is great to know about your online group/business. Thank you for asking me!  I would love to join the group, but currently, I am engaged with some priorities in my job. If this changes, you will certainly hear from me. Good luck with the online group networking activity.

A student from your graduation college has decided to organize a college reunion event and invite all the alumni students. The student has invited you to the event. And you are requested to coordinate with sending rest of the alumni invites for the event.

  • Wrong:

    Hey! Thanks for the reunion event invite buddy! Why ask me to do your work? Why don't you rope in someone else for help? Please, I am busy.

  • Right:

    Great to know that you intend to organize a college reunion event!

    I may not be able to work on your request to coordinate though. The reason being, my current family priorities have kept me extremely busy. I am sure you would agree, that it is challenging to disrupt a family schedule.

    I can't wait to be part of this memorable event. Yes, I can foresee, it will certainly be a fantastic event.

    Thank you for the invite!

So, now you know how to say "no" not only via email, but also face to face. I hope that these 5 tips will help you to avoid things you do not want to do and if you decide to refuse somebody, it will look very polite.

Image courtesy of pakorn at

About the author
Yohana Petrovic is a writer, has 10 years experience in educating and now she is a proofreader at You can reach her on Facebook: Yohana Petrovic or on Twitter: @YohanaPetrovic.

5 comments to "How To Say "No" Via Email? Tips To Reject, But Not Offend"

Vitamin Shaklee December 8, 2014 at 3:59 PM    

Thanks for the tips. I'm always having a hard time saying no.

Unknown December 8, 2014 at 5:00 PM    

You are welcome!

Civil Service Exam December 10, 2014 at 1:31 PM    

I am now trying to use these tips glad to see this post.

Unknown December 11, 2014 at 3:54 PM    

Hope that tehy will help you!

Rain Ashley December 16, 2014 at 2:30 PM    

Nice tips! I would like to apply this one. Thank you!

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