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5 Tips for Saying ‘NO’

24th June 2014

Simply saying ‘NO’ can be very difficult for many people.

Some are afraid of the aggressive reaction that a ‘NO’ might bring. Others feel that saying ‘NO’ makes them look unhelpful.

On the other hand, some people are just unrealistic about what they’re able to deliver and don’t realise that they SHOULD say ‘NO’.

Here are 5 quick tips for saying no:

1.      Remember your rights

You have the right to say ‘No’ to things that you can’t – or simply don’t want to do.

Sometimes it’s true that saying ‘No’ will have negative implications: be that hurt feelings, seeing someone struggle, or disciplinary action.

Sometimes, saying ‘No’ will have positive consequences: you won’t be overworked, inconvenienced or be doing something against your personal values for example.

The fact is, it’s your decision. Make a choice and take the consequences.

2.      Do it sooner rather than later

Sometimes it’s better to say ‘No’ immediately, rather than say ‘Yes’ and then let someone down later.

Often we say ‘Yes’ reluctantly when we should be brave and say ‘No’ from the outset. By saying ‘No’ straightaway, you give the other person a chance to find an alternative solution.

Saying ‘No’ may be uncomfortable in the short-term, but in the long-term it gives everyone the opportunity to be a winner.

3.      Take responsibility

Take responsibility for saying ‘No’ by using “I” in your responses rather than ‘they’, ‘the computer system’, ‘the customer’, or other vague terms that imply responsibility lies elsewhere.

For example, if you’re asked to do some extra work that’s not directly related to your job, it’s far better to simply say “No, I don’t think it’s my responsibility to do that” rather than “I would help out, but I’m too busy” or “The manager told me I must get this done, before anything else.”

4.      Be clear

Use clear unambiguous words to avoid confusion. Often, when we wish to let someone down gently, we pad out our refusal (or even disguise it) – by using lots of neutral language.

Neutral language includes vague words such as ‘hopefully – possibly – try – might – maybe.’

The problem is that this can be interpreted in many different ways and both parties come away with a different understanding. It’s far better to use clear words to avoid any confusion.

5.      Suggest alternatives

Often, people will ask you to do something simply because it’s the easiest solution to a problem they have, or the first thing they thought of.

Remember that they don’t necessarily need you to do the things they have asked you to – they simply want their problem-solving.

When you’ve turned down their request, take time to find out a little bit more and maybe together you can come up with an alternative solution which is just as good – if not better – than if you’d agreed to the original request.