Learn how to say no

Posted by: Joyce Matthews   |   2 Comments   |  Posted on: Sep 12, 2014

Ever been in a position where you feel you can’t say no? Maybe when your boss has asked you to do something extra, or a friend has asked for a favour, or a colleague has asked for some help? You don’t want to say yes, but you don’t know how to say no without hurting feelings or appearing to be selfish?

No can seem like such a hard word

You don’t really want to do what they’ve asked you, and you might have other commitments, but somehow you’ve found yourself saying the word yes, when your gut instinct is screaming at you to say no. Or maybe you said yes without even considering what else you have on your plate, and then regret it later when you realize you just don’t want to do it. You may have said yes because you wanted to be seen to be pleasing others, to be the helpful member of staff, the go-to guy. Or you might not even know why you said yes, you just did. It may be a habit that you haven’t realized you had and you don’t know how to change.

Can you say no without hurting someone’s feelings?

You don’t always have to say yes, just because you don’t know how to say no. There is a way to say no without actually using the word ‘no’, which can stop others feeling hurt or rejected. There is a way to preserve your time, energy and sanity whilst still maintaining a good relationship with others. A way to acknowledge and value them, while acknowledging and valuing yourself just as much; a way to offer a solution which suits you both; a way which is both diplomatic and professional.

Saying no without saying no

It’s a 3 step process which starts immediately after someone has asked you to do something. Here’s an example of how it works.

A: Miss Brown, I’m thinking about adding a stall to the school fair on Saturday – would you like to run the Tombola stall?

B: A Tombola stall at the school fair sounds like a great idea and should bring in lots of money. I’ve got other priorities on Saturday that I’m already committed to. Perhaps next time I can do it.

Did you notice what happened? Did you notice the sequence of statements? When you want to say no without saying no, there are 3 easy steps to giving a respectful answer.

  1. Show you understand the asker’s situation by acknowledging their request.
  2. State your situation – what stops you from honouring their request (be truthful).
  3. Offer an alternative – provide a solution either for the present or the future.

By using these 3 easy steps you can transform a potentially awkward conversation into a mutually respectful chat. Neither party gets the upper hand, and both parties leave feeling respected and clear about their position.

Just think of the difference it could make to your life; imagine how much time you will get back when you stop saying yes to things your really don’t want to do. Imagine the weight that will lift off your shoulders as well as the work that will clear off your desk. Picture yourself having that conversation, hear yourself saying the words; imagine how good you’ll feel.

You might want to try it out in situations you feel comfortable in at first; use it at home or with your friends or with your colleagues before you try it out with your boss – that way you’ll build your confidence while practicing and making it into a habit.

Of course if you don’t want to give an answer which respects the asker and leaves your reputation in tact you could always just block them with an outright ‘No’. You’ve probably had someone say that to you before – remember what that feels like? Do you want others to feel like a naughty child that’s been told off or would you prefer for them to walk away feeling like a respected and valued adult?

Download the printable pdf here

2 Comments to Learn how to say no

  1. Beata
    September 13, 2014 6:18 pm

    A great piece of advice – thank you! Whenever I get asked to do things I either don’t want or don’t have time to do, I usually struggle with how you get out of that tricky situation. I will follow your 3-step method from now on!

  2. jenni Williams
    September 13, 2014 7:27 pm

    Joyce, i often say yes when I should say no. I like this practical respectful strategy which I will now employ.
    Thanks you.

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