People face many challenges throughout their career. Saying ‘no’ is one of them. While it’s a mere two letter word, it can be one of the most difficult things to say. Many people never learn because they’re afraid (for a variety of reasons) or they never knew they could. Here’s your permission. It becomes harder to say it if you don’t learn to do it early on. It’s a skill that prevent burnout, administrative abuse, feelings of powerless, and so forth. I, of course, am not advocating that anyone shirk their responsibilities; rather, I am hopefully offering you a skill that will give you an element of control, and more important prevent you from being taken complete advantage of. As always, use discretion.
How to say ‘No’
While it should be as easy as saying the word, if you’ve ever tried it’s seldom that easy. You might finding yourself running through numerous scenarios of what might happen if you do say it. Perhaps you’ll be fired, reprimanded, or forgotten. Maybe you’ll lose favor with whoever’s asking. Maybe they won’t ask again. These are all things to take into consideration. Which brings us, I believe, to the crux of the matter: saying ‘no’ without alienating the inquirer or seeming defiant. So how do you do it? A friend offered me something similar to these steps, I’ve found them useful, so I’ll pass them along.
1. Decide if you want to do what they’re asking. Ask for time to think about it.
This is the part where you weigh your options. Is what I’m being asked something I need to do, want to do, have to do, don’t want to do, don’t have time to do, etc. My struggle is often wanting to do more than I have time to do. So when asked, if you need time to think if over, ask. Ask if you can think about it over night. If they press you for an answer, reiterate that you really need some time to think it over. More often than not, the time for consideration will be granted. Of course, there are somethings that the answer is yes before you’re asked. That’s a situation that requires your own judgment, and probably can’t be handled in this limited space.
2. Delivering your answer
You’ve made up your mind. Your answer is no.
Show that you understand their predicament, if there is a predicament. This could also equate with you understanding the weight of the situation, or the need to solve the problem. The main thing is to understand.
b) Express a desire to help them, but not right now.
This is where you’re actually saying ‘no’ without saying it. “I am really interesting in helping you with _________ , but _________.” You want to help or participate, but you’re unable at this time due to whatever. Maybe you have too much on your plate. Maybe something else.
c) Share your desire to do more in the future. Reschedule if you can.
You want to help them. You’re just unable at the moment, but you want to keep the opportunity, better, future opportunities intact. Ask if the task can be rescheduled, if it’s that type of task. Ask to be considered if another opportunity arises.
All together it might sound something like this:
“I understand where your coming from, I see this is very important. I’d really like to help you, but I really have too much on my plate to give it my all. Is there anyway we could reschedule?”
Something like that. Mold it to your situation.
It’s important to remember you’re saying no because you value your time, not because you’re being defiant. It’s your mental health and relationships at stake. You won’t always get your way, but it’s worth a shot. Use your best judgment when saying ‘no’. Every situation is unique. Be wise. Be creative. Be happy.