Saying no can be done in a way that helps the other party.

  • “Yes, and”: Where consequences need to be discussed for reëvaluation.
  • Guidelines: Pre-decline bad options with clear limits on what options are.
  • “Help me say yes”: Curiously exploring all aspects of the request together.
  • Budget: Demonstrate current constraints and how the request interacts with them.
  • Good cop/bad cop: As a favor, involve someone else with authority to help decline.

No matter what, though, don’t waste time avoiding the discussion. Conflict should lead to better results, after all.