04/26/2013 12:16 pm ET Updated Jun 24, 2013

4 Tips for Saying "No" with Power and Grace

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For Women & Co. by Henna Inam, Transformational Leadership

Once you are able to shift from the beliefs that keep you from saying "no," you can begin to look for graceful ways to do it. The way we deliver our message is as important as the message itself. Our goal is to deliver our message in a way that is full of warmth, empathy and appreciation for the other person because, everything else being equal, we'd rather be nice than not. Here are four tips to help you say "no" gracefully:

1) Set expectations upfront.
We can set expectations up front about our other priorities and that helps us set boundaries. We can talk about all the other priorities we are passionate about.

2) Acknowledge needs even if we are not the one to fulfill them.
Practice active listening. This can go something like this: "I can hear how important this project is to you. It's just really important to me to fulfill the commitments I have already made."

3) Make sure that you express your own emotion toward the person.
If you are sincere about this person, you can say "I really admire your commitment to making this happen." Your choice to say "no" is not indicative of their value to you as a person.

4) Give them appropriate reasons.
If there are specific competing priorities, you can share these with the other person, but make sure you reassure them emotionally first.

Understand that being able to say "no" is a leadership practice. It's like when we first learned how to ride a bike, we were a bit sloppy at it. So, give yourself permission to fail, learn and keep practicing. To continue to grow in our confidence, it helps to journal about our successes.