Saying “no” with grace

One of the things I’ve historically struggled with is telling people no.

I’m a recovering people pleaser and I find so much joy in being able to help others.

However, as an entrepreneur, being strategic with your time and exactly HOW you help people is extremely important. Given that, an inevitable part of the job is saying no… a lot.

When you overextend yourself, you end up burned out. I talk about this more in this video.

“Strategy is about what you say no to as much as what you say yes to.” 

-David Gilboa, Co-Founder of Warby Parker

When you are overworked and feeling exhausted, it often means that you don’t have the time and energy to devote to spending time with friends and family. You may let your health slip and, before you know it, you’ll become unhappy.

Saying “yes” to one thing often means saying “no” by default to something else… your family, your friends, your mental health, your happiness, and the list goes on.

I recently read the book, Freedom to Focus after hearing the author, Michael Hyatt on The Storybrand Podcast. There is a wealth of knowledge and practical tips packed into this book.

One of my biggest takeaways from the book to help me stress less every time I need to decline someone’s request and spend less time saying ‘no’ is to create a template. It’s a combination of inspiration provided by Michael Hyatt and Tim Ferris in this awesome episode of his podcast all about how to say no.

Since using the template, it has been received really well from most people I’ve sent it to.

From time to time I’ve also shared this template with friends and colleagues and they’ve also had great results.

So, *drum roll please*… here is my high level, go-to template for declining a request:

Hi, [insert name],

It’s so good to hear from you. I’m totally at capacity right now with commitments I’ve made to my clients, my family, and [add any additional commitments, if relevant].

Now, depending on the request, this next part of the template will vary:

  • If I’d like eventually be open to meeting with them, just not in the foreseeable future I’ll wrap up my message or email with the following: However, if you’d like to circle back in [insert month]\ once things slow down a bit, I’d love to catch up!
    • Interesting fact: 9/10 don’t circle back
  • If someone is asking for my advice that I don’t have the capacity to give, I’ll direct them to alternative resources or to content that I’ve written on the topic.

At a minimum, I try to direct anyone making a request to some type of resource. However, if that’s not possible then I’ll just send the top statement.

If I’ve offered them a resource of some type, I’ll usually wrap it up with something along the lines of “Thanks again for your interest/thinking of me. I hope this is helpful to you.

Kind Regards,


Use it. See how it works. Feel free to alter it to better match your ‘voice.’

I hope that this template serves you in doing your best and most important work as much as it has served me.

And don’t forget to let me know how it goes.