Imagine it’s late Friday afternoon at the office, and you’re just about to leave when your boss comes in with a huge stack of papers. She proceeds to ask you if you can have them filed before you go home. What do you want to do, and what do you end up doing?
You really, truly want to say no, but the word “yes'” pops out of your mouth instinctively. You end up stuck in the office on a Friday night, which every once in a while wouldn’t be such a big deal, but tonight you’re missing a pre-arranged celebration.
If this situation sounds remotely familiar, you might have a problem saying no. Actually, you might not even know how to say no in the first place.
1) Don’t over-explain – Your “no” shouldn’t have to come with a 10-minute explanation. If you can’t do whatever is being asked of you, then simply say that you can’t fit it in.
It is more likely to hurt than help your cause if you go on a long-winded tale about all the reasons you can’t do it. A simple no should be enough.
2) Be respectful – It is widely accepted that saying no is inherently disrespectful. This is definitely not the case.
Although the way you say no can be disrespectful, the actual word isn’t rude at all. When you are put in a position of saying no to someone, say it clearly, calmly and respectfully.
Don’t leave the other person feeling stupid for asking or completely rejected. Also, keep in mind that saying no can actually be very beneficial and is much preferred over a wishy-washy answer or a yes that can’t be followed through.
3) Practice – In order to be good at something, it takes practice. This rule even applies to the art of saying no. It might feel a bit silly, but standing in front of your mirror and saying no a few times will actually help you in the long run.
It will be easier to say no in the moment if you can picture exactly how you look and sound when you’re saying no. Focus on having a confident stance and firm voice when saying no.
4) Know why – It’s important to understand the reason you’re saying no. If you actually know the reason you’re saying no, then you will have a much easier time saying no.
It also helps to know the reason, in case you begin to have doubts after saying no. Remember to remind yourself if you took on that extra project, you wouldn’t have enough time to complete any of your other projects for the week. Or you might not have enough time to devote to each on individually.
5) Offer alternatives – If you feel like saying no just isn’t who you are, you can definitely offer to help in a different way. If it’s a problem at work you can offer to help find someone who can stay late.
If a friend comes to you needing a ride, see if you can take them another day. If this still doesn’t work, offer to help them find another friend who can take them.
Remember that the alternative shouldn’t be more time-consuming than the actual task, but it doesn’t hurt to take a few minutes to make some phone calls. Knowing that you did what you could to help will help your conscience stay free of guilt.
The next time someone approaches you, remember to keep calm, assess the situation and say no if you aren’t up to the task. Don’t be afraid of conflict, looking mean or burning bridges. It is much more likely that the person will just accept that you can’t and come up with a different solution.