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How to Soften Rejection With a Positive Message The Esquire Guy on how to make rejection sound better.

By Ross McCammon

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Illustrations© Chris Philpot

A straight no makes you callous. Saying a lot of things that aren't no but add up to no makes you squirrelly. Saying yes when you're thinking no makes you a liar. Any of those is a bad idea. The right way to say no is to combine all three approaches into a kind of super no -- a negative accompanied by a whole bunch of positives.

First, A Little Empathy
A no means more than just a rejection of a request; it means a rejection of the requester. It means a rejection of the requester's belief in the rightness of his or her cause. (And disagreements over belief always get dicey.)

Take one of the most common yes/no questions in business: the request for a raise. On the face of it, what that moment represents for you, the employer, is an awkward conversation in your office. But what that question represents for the employee is days and days of thought and anxiety and practicing the question with a mirror and maybe a couple of Xanax. The question is just the last step in a very long process. A quick no way belittles that process. Which is why the no should be a minor part of the answer. Your response should be commensurate with the effort it took to ask the question. Your response should be empathetic.

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