How to Politely Decline Their First Offer

When it comes to negotiating, there is a general rule in which to follow: never accept the first offer. Some people worry about rejecting the first offer for fear of offending the other person, but in fact, the other person is fully expecting you to counter. When you don’t counter the first offer, you leave your counterpart with two negative thoughts: Why didn’t I make an even better first round offer, and there must be something wrong with their willingness to accept it so quickly. You don’t want to leave your counterpart with the wrong impression, and you certainly don’t want to miss out on a better deal, which is why it is always acceptable to politely decline the first offer. The following tips can help you determine how to politely counteroffer for maximum effectiveness during your next negotiation. 


Start with an Appreciation of Time and Effort

When you are negotiating a business deal, a job offer, or a salary increase, you always want to maintain a good rapport with your counterpart since you never know when you might work with them again in the future. For this reason, the first thing you should do when declining the first offer is to thank the person for their time and effort. You could say something like, “I appreciate your hard work in putting together this offer for me, but unfortunately I am going to have to decline your offer at this time.” Even though you are declining the offer, your counterpart likely spent time researching information and putting the offer together so it would only be appropriate to thank them for their effort.


Say It Directly

Many people drag their feet and dance around the issue because they are nervous about delivering the news. However, an elaborate and unnecessary response will only frustrate your counterpart. The best way to decline the first offer is to do so bluntly, making it quick and painless. Too much babbling could allow them to find a loophole in your answer. 


Explain Your Reasoning

Make it clear exactly why you are not interested in the offer. It will provide much needed insight for your counterpart and it will set the stage for your counteroffer. After all, a persuasive rationale can help you leverage your side of the argument. Furthermore, rejection without a proper reason can be frustrating and confusing. 


Offer an Alternative

Sure, the other person might not be excited about hearing the word “no” but if you can offer an alternative that seems equally as good, they are likely to accept the rejection much better. This is a great chance for you to provide concrete evidence as to why your offer is the best deal. If you are negotiating salary for example, prove your worth. If you are negotiating a sales deal, prove why you are worth the extra money. 


Be Prepared to Make Concessions

Playing hardball isn’t always the best way to achieve your desired outcome. By agreeing to make concessions, you are demonstrating a willingness to find a solution that is beneficial to both parties. Not only are you more likely to get what you want, but you are doing so without leaving a bad impression.