Poster about saying no
You can say no nicely and still feel good about yourself

Change your life: The hamburger response

28 July, 2014

Regular readers will know that one ‘of my ‘hot topics’ is the importance of learning how to say “no”.

I believe it’s a crucial life skill – not to mention one of the key weapons needed in the battle to achieve that elusive nirvana – Work/Life Balance.

How often have you said ‘yes’ to something and immediately regretted it? Perhaps your diary was already jammed and you really didn’t have time to add that extra networking meeting or social commitment.

I’ve found that saying ‘no’ is a lot easier if you have this simple formula to follow: Picture a hamburger … think of the two buns as representing positive statements and the burger a negative one. The idea is to ‘wrap’ your negative statement in between two positive ones in order to soften the impact.

Saying no can be the ultimate self-care” — Claudia Black

It really works. Here’s an example:

A colleague has called and asked if you would be on the committee for a new project he’s launching. You know full well that you don’t have time to get involved, and that it’s not of any interest to you personally or professionally. So, what do you say?

“I really appreciate your inviting me to be part of your project.” (positive)

“I’m really sorry, but for the next few months my schedule is absolutely crammed and I don’t have any spare time, so I’m unable to accept”. (negative)

“But thanks for thinking of me – and I wish you the very best of luck with the project.”

You’ve just said no, but in a very respectful way. Obviously you’ll need to couch your refusal in the kind of language that feels comfortable for you – but hopefully using the “hamburger response” will make you feel more comfortable about saying ‘No’ when you need to.


  • Annabel Sutton is a Professional Certified Coach and Author.  She has lived in Los Angeles and Indonesia; survived earthquakes and riots, lived with head-hunters and enjoyed a portfolio career.  She now enjoys a somewhat quieter life in Somerset!  Her latest book, 52 Ways to Transform Your Life (Weekly Wisdom for Busy People), contains 52 inspiring, quick-to-read life tips and is available from . Find more information at