How To Say No

The Silicon Valley Investors Club is excited to have Jordan Thibodeau join us for a talk about delivering and receiving a “no” gracefully to maintain healthy contacts for future opportunities.

There’s plenty of material about the topic on how to get people to say “Yes”, yet there aren’t many resources available explaining the art of how to say no. The goal for your career and investing endeavors is to have people in your network who are willing to share opportunities with you. The more options you have, the better off you will be in life because you will have negotiation power to walk away from a given opportunity and you will never be forced into a “take it or leave it” scenario.

And one way of ensuring you have more options is to ensure the way you go about saying “No” doesn’t insult the other party, so they are willing to come back to you with new opportunities.

In this blog post, you’ll learn about:

  • The context of “No”
  • The different types of “No”
  • How some “Nos” are better than others
  • How to say “No”
  • And how to take a “No” gracefully

The Context of “No”


We have to remember the majority of people who are asking for something for their business are just trying to make ends meet. It is not malicious when someone reaches out to you with a job, product, or investment. Where it becomes malicious is when you tell someone no and they continue to pressure you to say “yes”.

When someone is offering you an opportunity that you are not currently interested in, you respond “no”. However, we tend to focus on the present and forgot about the future. Yes this person doesn’t have something I want now, but where will I be in my life 5-10 years from now? How do I know this person won’t be in a position of power to help me when I’m in my time of need? What if the labor market completely changes, and now I need this person? 

In the future, that person may be in a situation where they have an opportunity for you that meets your needs, but if you didn’t tell the person “no” properly, they might not offer it to you. Ultimately, you need to think of what you say now can either set you up for a better position in the future or make you worse off. 

Related Course: Improve your friendships with our Cycles of Friendship course


How to say No: The Different Kinds of No

There are different degrees of “no” and I would like to explain them in further detail.


Emotional “No” – Not only do you say no to the person, but you also attack their offer and diminish it. For example: “No, I don’t want what you have to offer and why are reaching out to me?” or “The message you sent to me was so jumbled that I couldn’t even understand it and you need to get better at sending canned responses.” In addition to rejecting that person, you also hurt that person and inserted negativity into the situation. It’s better to recognize that you had nothing good to say and you should not say anything. But you opened your mouth, and the bell can’t be unrung. The person is now hurt, thinks you are a jerk, and will probably never reach out to you again. This brings me to the next worst “no”.


Ghost “No” – I consider this a step up from the emotional “no”, not adding any venom into the situation, but still being inconsiderate for not getting back to the person. The ghost “no” is only a good alternative when you can’t give a non-emotional “no”. But, ultimately, it’s better to resolve the situation, provide a polite “no”, and prevent the door from slamming shut on any potential future communication or relationship with that person. Which leads up to the next version of “no”.

SVIC Article: Building Wealth with Index Funds, Angel Investing, and Venture Capital

Polite “No” – The polite “no” is essentially responding back with a polite message that could go something like this –  “Thank you for reaching out. I really appreciate you considering me for your opportunity; but, unfortunately, this is not a fit for me at this time. Thank you.” Now, if you want to do even better, you could also provide an explanation, which I’ll go into next.


Polite “No” with an explanation – First of all, you do not owe anyone an explanation for anything in your life, except for your family, friends, and your employer. However, if you want to explain to the person why you said “no”, you can tell them the same statement as above and add an explanation of why you are not currently a fit for that opportunity or keep the explanation brief and include an opportunity for future interaction.

You could say, “Unfortunately, this is not a fit for me at this time in my career because the role is a bit too junior. I’m looking for a role that will allow me to manage a team of 10-15 people. If you have opportunities that fit my criteria, please feel free to reach out.” This “no” leaves the door open, provides the person with a specific reason why you said no and what you’re looking for and that person might think, “Okay, well this opportunity wasn’t a fit for this person at this juncture and they also told me why. But, maybe if I have an opportunity that fits their criteria in the future I can reach out to them again.”


Nice “no” with an explanation and an alternative – This “no” basically explains why you said “no”, but then also helps the person who is making the request by saying “Okay, while I’m not a fit for this job, I do know Jane who might be a fit and here’s a link to her LinkedIn profile. You might want to try reaching out to her.” This will set you miles apart from most people who when they receive a request will only give a nice “no”. By saying “no” and providing them with another opportunity at least shows them some professional courtesy that you are trying to help them out, and if it turns out that that opportunity is a good fit for your friend, now you have helped your friend and increased your standing with the recruiter.

Related Interview: Celeste Headlee – We Need to Talk


Receiving a “no”

People often get stuck in the current time frame without thinking about future time frames. For instance, someone says “no” to you for an investment opportunity. An aggressive person will keep pushing the person, asking the many why’s to identify where the person’s objections are rooted. They use this to push back and break down the “no’s” until they say “yes”. The requestor needs to understand that the “customer” may need space because they have other things going on in their life or they just don’t have time for the opportunity right now. The more you push, the more you risk destroying the relationship completely. 


However, when someone says “no” to you, the next critical thing is to remember how crucial your reaction is to that “no”. Do you respond back with anger? Or whine and complain? Or do you realize that this “no” is a “no right now”, but there is a potentiality in the future that it could become a “yes”. You can respond back courteously saying something along the lines of “Okay. I completely understand this doesn’t work for you, but would it be okay if I check in a month or two from now to see if the situation changes?” and focus on moving on to other prospects.

Well I hope you enjoyed my piece on giving and receiving a no. Please let me know what you think and if you enjoyed this post, please share it. 

Related Article: SVIC Guide: How to Invest In Startups With Angel Syndicates


The content here is for informational purposes only, and should not be taken as investment advice. All views contained herein are my own and do not represent the views of any other organization.

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20 hours ago

On occasion, I will get asked by investors about the pros/cons of investing in rental property in various cities/counties in California. Seeing how Alameda County has treated landlords during the pandemic sheds light on how little they value property owners. I understand the need for urgency ordinances to help those who have been financially impacted by COVID-19, but why is Alameda taking this further and prohibiting ALL evictions unless it is related to protecting the health and safety of others (even this small exception is very difficult to enforce)? Let me provide you with some examples specific to Alameda County:

1) Your tenant moves in unauthorized occupants in violation of your lease- you CANNOT terminate their tenancy or evict.
2) Your tenant moves out and sublets your property without your permission. They continue to collect rent from the subtenant while not paying you rent for over a year- you CANNOT terminate their tenancy or evict.
3) Your tenant owes you a large sum of money for past due rent (all pre-Covid). You decide to put them on a payment plan, which they ultimately refuse to honor- you CANNOT terminate their tenancy or evict.

Apparently, a colleague tried filing an eviction because one tenant set fire to another tenant’s car at the property. The judge found that the incident was not enough to rise to an “imminent threat” to the health or safety of others.

(Note: I am not posting this to incite a political debate on my page, I am simply stating my opinion on a county that has taken it too far by stripping landlords of their rights.)
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PK Singh: TY for sharing. Please take the day off, full pay. Everyone: PK Singh is a landlord attorney in the Bay Area, and you can find some of her other excellent work on our blog:

1 week ago

My handyman just retired. SAD! Does anyone have a good handyman that works in San Jose? ... See MoreSee Less

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thoughts and prayers

We've just postponed a remodel project because of complete inability to find a plumber (Maine).

My short list is on south peninsula, but the role of a Handyperson is a broad. Any rough idea what kind of projects you are looking for?

I have someone, he is about ~$100/hour. Some say that rate is high but I like him because he is fast, efficient and reliable. Let me know if interested and I can PM his contact info to you.

6 days ago

SVICmates, (I'm trying to find some term of endearment to refer to us as. I can't do the classic tech company cop-out of (Insert here company name) + "er", so if you have any ideas let me know. SVICmates does sound like the word inmates so I don't know if it's the best choice, lmk what you think in the comment section)

Oh ya, now what I was talking about, now that the group is almost 4,700 members, every now and then you will get a person who tries to message members individually pitching their product or deals.

Soliciting folks via DM is no bueno, so if you find anyone doing that, please NARC them out err let me know.

Love always,
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umm well personally I joined this group to sell lightsaber chopsticks and other basic essentials, rude

'SVestors' / regular use 'svestors': like sylvester; not to be confused with sinvestors. ... Yeah that isn't great. How about: 'SiVICs' / regular use 'sivics': like civics; sometimes to be confused with cynics. Or classic boring but descriptive branding: 'Clubmates' or 'members'.

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