How to Say “NO”
Why did I say, “Yes” when I really wanted to say No? You ‘d probably be asking this question every time you agree to another task. Even though you do not have time or resources to do something but you commit to another one. For example, your supervisor just assigned an additional project to you and you can't imagine how you'll get it done or a colleague wants you to finish a project while they’re on vacation, but the work is out of your area of expertise. When we are constantly agreeing to do things for others, we are taking up time we could be using on things we really wanted to do. We get so caught up in trying to please others that we forget to take care of our own needs into consideration.
Let us understand first, why do we resist saying "No".
You were taught this way: you have been brought up in a culture where saying No is not being polite. This conditions your mind and the experience of childhood reflects regardless of your age. You find yourself constantly saying Yes to people because of deep rooted sense of having to be polite, to reciprocate favors and to get along with others.
You want to help: You are a kind person at heart and would not leave a chance to help someone. You do not like to turn away a person in need and would not mind extending your helping hand despite it may eat into your own time.
Need of being liked: You often find yourself in a fix when someone asks you to take care of something because you are so worried about what they will think if you say no, you quickly respond yes, regardless of your ability to comply.
Avoiding Confrontation: You are afraid that you will not be received on a positive note and the person might get annoyed if you say “No”. There might be dissent created which might lead to negative consequences in the future.
Want of being part of a Group: The fear of alienating self on non-agreement to something being proposed by set of people be it your colleagues, friend or family makes you conform to the entreat.
If you resonate to any of the reasons mentioned above, you are not alone. It can be difficult to say no, but it is equally important for you to protect your own priorities and time. Saying no does not mean you’re rejecting the other person; it means that you’re turning down a specific request that the person is making of your time and energy.
Before Saying “No” to someone, ask yourself
- Can I set aside my work while I work on this one?
- Do I have necessary skills to take up this work?
- Am I the best person to take this up?
- Can I assign my work to someone else while I take this up?
- Will taking this work cause any harm to my other work?
If it seems that you are not the right person or it is not the right time to take up the job then it is important to get into a conversation and communicate a placid “NO” along with a rationale for your situation. You have set your own boundaries for upright reasons and saying no is all about respecting and valuing your time and space.
A good start could be saying no to small situations and requests that you might deal with on a daily basis. It will not take more efforts to simply say no. Keeping your “no” brief, polite, and fairly general usually works best.
You have to practice on quick respectful responses for situations where it is common to overcommit. You will realize that people are very understanding and may not resist in response to your “no”. The fear is all in your head. Following are few suggestions on how to do well at saying no.
- When you receive last minute requests: you have to tell the person that your plate is full and it would not be appropriate to not follow through on your earlier commitments.
- When you become the first point of contact for everything irrespective of your area of expertise: excuse yourself gently by offering to connect with someone who could be best help to solve the problem.
- When you are given extreme squat deadlines: while appreciating the urgency of the task you need to buy additional time by offering higher quality in return.
- When someone is in need and you do not have time due to your own pressing priorities: acknowledge that it is a difficult situation for the person, give a smile and walk away.
- When someone asks you to do something which less occupied others can do:clearly communicate your willingness to help but inability to take at this time due to busy schedule. Recommend reaching out to a person or colleague who can turn this around quickly.
- Instead of providing an immediate answer, you can buy more time to evaluate the request. This will allow you to check your other commitments and priorities.
- Apologizing for not able to take up something is common and is also considered polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound like you are at fault. You don’t need to be apologetic about shielding your time.
Here are some statements, which can be practiced for being more comfortable to say “No”
- Let me check my schedule and I’ll get back to you. How about if I let you know by tomorrow evening?
- I can’t stay late in the evening today as I have some family obligations to take care.
- I’m sorry; I won’t be able to make it, as I will be travelling out of town that week.
- I’m not free at the moment for another one hour, but I am free later today; can we meet?
- Could you send me some more details of that request? Once I assess, I’ll be able to give you more definite answer on when can I get this done for you.
If you’re struggling to say no, think back to all the times when agreeing to take on something new distracted you from your own priorities. Learn to say no to requests that don’t meet your needs, and once you do that you’ll find how easy it actually is.