An Easy Way to Say NO to US Clients

Posted On: January 29, 2014

Negotiating deadlines, how to say no politely to not totally end communication with US counterparts is an art. This is one of the hot topics that arises in all management seminars I facilitate. As many Indians are uncomfortable with a flat out NO, we work on ways to say yes, no and partial agreements that leave open space for conversation or brainstorming.  

Recently, I came by an article How to Say That You Can’t Meet a Deadline in English, and was refreshed on the management seminars I conduct on this topic. The article above details some very specific and direct ways of declining requests. While these statements are important, I often suggest those I coach to add a few more critical messages along with this no. (Or, even a yes!)   

How to politely disagree or say NO in American business


Steps to a Diplomatic No:

  1. Say no / apologize / empathize 
  2. Give a reason
  3. Prioritize what can and can’t be done in this time
  4. Ask for their feedback

An example with example response:
US client Donald wants the app to be released in three days. Your team knows this is impossible. Saying a flat out no means you will lose their business. How can you respond using the above steps to continue the discussion and not lose this work?

Example response:

“Donald, while we understand the urgency to release this in three days (step 1), we are not able to finish the entire project in three days (step 1). Based on our experience with previous projects, we require at least 5 days (step 2). However, we can prioritize the requirements and within 3 days we can complete X, Y and Z. As A and B tasks are not as important to the release of the app/website because (give reason), we can finish this in the remaining two days (step 3). What do you think?”(step 4)

It may be helpful to add why this plan benefits the end user. Who is the customer or user of the digital product? How will finishing X, Y, Z enhance their experience? How will delaying A and B not impact their experience during the initial days of release?

Feel free to share your experiences on negotiating with US clients or colleagues below.

Thank you for reading.

Jennifer Kumar is a corporate coach helping Indians to more effectively communicate with US clients. The management seminars mentioned above are delivered to hand-picked team leads and managers interacting directly with US counterparts. In the seminars, we look at real-like work scenarios, analyze them and practice better ways to handle them. Get in touch for more information.

Related Posts:
Saying YES in a more convincing way than OK and YES 
“I’ll think about it” – a typical American response in negotiations  
Stop speaking to understand what the client is really saying (aka- LISTEN more!)  
Interrupting – how to do it politely  


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