Why and how to say NO

Monday, December 31, 2018
How can I say ‘no?’ How can I push back? Whilst most of us endeavor to be helpful and accommodating, there comes a time, for our own sanity, let alone an equitable work-life balance, that we have to learn to say no.

There are always ‘trade-offs.’

In these days of constant connection and never-ending ‘to do’ lists, when it comes to managing our time and energy there will always be trade-offs. If you are saying ‘yes’ to staying at work until 7pm, what are you saying ‘no’ to?

Dinner with the children? When it comes to how we are managing our time, the key is to be fully aware of the decisions we are making, the trade-offs, the opportunity costs and long-term consequences of our actions.

Working smarter

Working smarter is phrase uttered in meetings up and down the country, but few people realise that working smarter always means identifying what you are no longer going to do and to stop doing it.

In other words, the concept of working smarter is all about saying no, so you can say yes to higher priorities, both at an individual and organisational level.

Saying ‘no’ is an integral part of well-being

It’s easier to say ‘no’ to requests on our time and energy when we are clear about what’s important to us.

If we are seeking to place our own self-care and well-being higher on our agenda, this means saying no more frequently to other people’s urgencies. By saying no to requests for your time, you’re saying yes to your personal priorities.

Saying ‘no’ is good marketing

Anyone who has studied marketing will know that you cannot be all things to all people.

Sometimes you have to say ‘no’ to potential business because it is not a ‘good fit,’ the client would be too difficult to manage, or it would have a negative impact on other aspects of your business.

By saying ‘no’ to some opportunities, you are freeing up time and resources to devote to the clients, the people you want to work with and who value working with you.

Tips for saying ‘no’

Sometimes we need the language, the neat phrases to have in our back pockets to help us say ‘no’ so we don’t come across as rude or ungrateful. Here are some of my favourites.

Say ‘no’ with a straightforward explanation.

"No, I'm uncomfortable doing that!" “No, that’s not something I’ve knowledge on.”

Say ‘no’ and give an alternative.

"No. I can’t do that today, how about first thing in the morning?"

Say no and clarify your reason.

“No, unfortunately I won’t be able to get that to you as I have other critical work that is of a higher priority.”

Give a preface and then say no

“Each year I choose 3 charities to support and I’m sorry to inform you that you are not one of those this year.”

Make an empathetic listening statement and then say no.

“I very much appreciate your invitation, but I will be unable to attend.”

Say yes but.

"Yes I can do that task A of the project, but not task B."

“Yes, I can stay until six this evening, but not tomorrow evening.”

Say Yes and.

One of my favourites as you are finding an area of agreement, presenting alternatives, but also involving the other person in the resolution.

"Yes I can get you that information by the morning and in the meantime I will need you to... for example, get clarity on these points first..."

When it comes to seizing new opportunities, stepping outside our comfort zones or learning something new, saying ‘yes’ enriches our lives. However when it comes to our time management, our well-being, our assertiveness and even our business strategies being able to say no is an essential skill.

James Sweetman is a Business & Personal Coach specialising in assisting businesses and individuals realise their potential. He works both on a one-2-one basis with clients as well as delivering workshops on a range of topics including Communication Skills and Motivation. For more information on all his services visit www.jamessweetman.com view his YouTube channel, or e-mail him at james@jamessweetman.com.