I came across an article by Paul and Sarah Edwards in Costco Connection (you can find interesting information in all sorts of places!), that resonated with me and I thought worth sharing with you.

“In business, saying no can be especially difficult. Saying yes to every request, or a particular request, when you should have said no can leave you falling short on your agreements or feeling overwhelmed, angry and resentful.

This means that in business, as in other aspects of life, you need to set boundaries between what your customers want and what you can do. Customers might be angry or disappointed but that’s less likely if you say no in a constructive way. And it’s better than saying yes and then not delivering.

You can say no in multiple ways that are respectful and courteous. An effective no starts to give yourself permission to set boundaries without guilt or embarrassment. Here are some tips for effectively handling these situations.

Don’t do this:

  • Beat around the bush with phrases like “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not certain.”
  • Start apologizing and giving a string of excuses and explanations for why you can’t do what is being asked for.
  • Assume no is the only answer. There is almost always an alternative.

Follow these “do’s”:

  • Remain polite, courteous and considerate.
  • Let your customer know that you would like to be able to help.
  • Ask questions to be sure what the customer needs, and hold the thought that you might be able to avoid a flat-out no.
  • When you’re sure you know what the customer needs, tell them, “Here’s what I can do,” and ask if that will work for them. If you’re not sure what to propose, tell them you’ll get back to them shortly with what you can do.
  • If it turns out that what you can do won’t work for them, let them know you’re sorry you can’t help.
  • Adhering to yourself, your priorities and your other customer can be a win-win for everybody involved.


Ray Mattes
President/CEO Retail Alliance