How often have you found yourself unable to say ‘no’ to someone? It isn’t easy turning down an invite or request. There are many reasons why we might find ourselves unable to say no to requests- anxiety, a sense of obligation, wanting to be liked, wanting to be useful or to avoid confrontation. After all, it may mean a lost opportunity or bad feelings, personally or professionally. But if you say yes too often, you may wind up with too much on your plate to complete everything successfully. This can result in greater damage to friendships and business relationships when you fail to come through as promised. It can also have a negative impact on your peace of mind.
Knowing when and how to say no takes practice and preparation, so before you make any decision:
- Ask yourself if the request is something you want to do. Agreeing to do something you don’t like or want to do can lead to stress, even poor performance that jeopardizes your bottom line or a valuable relationship.
- Resist the urge to answer immediately. Tell the person you need time to decide. This way, you can think about your reasons for saying no. And be sure to give the person your decision as promised; this will reduce the risk of additional disappointment or ill will.
- Know your goals. Anything you agree to do should complement or move you closer to achieving your personal and professional goals.
- Weigh the request against your schedule. Knowing that the time and effort required are beyond your ability will make it easier to say no.
- Visualize the word no. Picturing yourself saying no will make it easier to say it when necessary.
Remember, when you say no, you are saying no to a request; not the person. Keep it that way by sticking to the facts. You don’t need to offer a long explanation, just state your reason simply and clearly.
- “Thanks for thinking of me, but I’m pressed for time and I’ll have to pass.”
- “Thanks for the invitation, but I’m unable to attend.”
- “My schedule is fully booked and I am unable to take on any new volunteer activities this month/year.”
- “I’m unable to take on this project because I don’t have the time to give it my full attention.”
- “Thanks for asking, but my weekends are set aside for family time.”
- “I can't do A, but I can do B for you.”
- “I think that John would be better at that than me.”
Even using these techniques, you may find yourself in situations where an employer, client or friend just won’t accept no for an answer. But before you say yes:
- Ask about alternatives. There may be other ways in which you can help someone – ways that require less effort for you, but are equally valuable and appreciated.
- Change your priorities if necessary. There may be a work-related project where you can’t say no. If so, ask about or look at postponing or delegating other responsibilities. This will give you the time you need to get it done right.
- Suggest another way you can be of assistance
Start getting used to saying no. Practice saying no to your family and friends. You know they will still love you if you decline to do something. Remember, when you say yes to something you are ultimately saying no to something else.
Make sure you are living your life with intent and making decisions based on you goals and values. Saying no to others can mean saying yes to the life you really want.