What is one of the hardest things to do when you are at work? It is not beating the deadline or facing a grumpy boss. It is actually saying no to someone. It becomes increasingly difficult when you are one of the better employees as you are expected to receive a lot of requests for help. I am (I think, at least) my boss’s favorite man, and, often I am called for resolving tight situations at work. Saying ‘No’ is real tough for me at times in front of every probing eyes.
I am not good at saying no either. Specially to my manager, I have serious trouble to say ‘No’. I mentioned before that this blog is my chronicle to learn things along with you. A lot of preparation went in to writing this article. I did search around 20 other related articles on net. And finally prepared an action plan for my use, which I thought can be helpful to you as well. Here’s the written synopsis.
Why It is difficult to say ‘No’?
People feel that when they say no, they are actually being rude, harsh, or cold. In turn the other person asking for would feel bad about it, and whatever relationship they are trying to build is down the drain.
But it is also important for you to learn how to say no. At the end of the day, you are chiefly responsible of your own decisions. If you cannot finish your own task because you are busy helping somebody else, it is your fault. You do not get promoted for being nice alone.
How do you exactly say “Sorry, can’t do that” to someone? Let me share some of my old tricks:
Practice saying ‘No’
I need to visualize myself talking to someone. I’d stand in front of the mirror and say no. Imagine a lot of different situation and you are saying no in all of them. Be extra careful to not become a naysayer. A ‘Yes’ is generally associated with a positive attitude.
But a ‘No’ is not always a negative attitude, saying ‘No’ to a thing is actually allowing you to say ‘Yes’ on something else.
Be gentle but firm in saying ‘No’
Remember what they say: it is not what you say but how you say it. Even the harshest words can sound melodious if you can simply say them with gentleness. It is the same thing when you are saying no. Make sure you can look at the person in the eye so he immediately gets the point but do not forget to smile.
Offer an alternative
Not all no’s remain as they are forever. Perhaps you can’t do it today but on another time. It can greatly help—in fact, it is a win-win situation—if you can provide other solutions. Perhaps you can tell your colleague, “I can’t do this right now, but if you can wait for 4 hours, I can definitely help you.” or “John is an expert on this topic, can you check it with him first?”
Do not take it too personally
Whether you like it or not, there will be people who will not be happy with your decision. I can no longer count with my fingers the many times someone gave me a cold shoulder for months simply because I could not give in to his request.
Keep in mind, however, that it is a natural reaction. There will also come a time when you’ll feel bad because someone says no to you. Just take things at a grain of salt. Soon, these people will realize you’ve made the right decision.
Avoid pretending you’re busy
Believe me, a lot of people make the mistake of pretending that they’re busy, so that no one would come to them anymore asking for help. Let me tell you, your colleagues aren’t blind. They know when you’re truly busy. It’s offensive to act as if you’re doing something when you’re definitely not; just because you don’t want to help anyone.
Sometimes, You don’t need to explain
Here’s another reason why you’re finding it hard to say no: you’re trying to look for an explanation. Perhaps you have one, but you aren’t sure if it’s something people will believe in.
Guess what, you don’t need to explain anything to anyone, unless it’s a matter of life and death (or crucial). For example, your boss demands why you can’t do project B just yet. Otherwise, you can simply say no—that’s it. If somebody asks, just let them know you can’t do it.
Understand yourself a lot better
Determine your limits. Know your strengths. Don’t try to be a hero by doing or helping out in a task you know you’re not good at. You’re only making things worse, and you’re wasting your time. Before you accept anything, ask yourself first, “Even if I have the time, is this something I can definitely do?”
Refer the person to somebody else
This can be related to the previous one. If you don’t know how to do it but knows someone who’s an expert in the field, then by all means refer your colleague to the latter. You’re not only keeping yourself productive by not doing any task that’s going to be difficult, but you’re also doing your colleague a huge favor.
Know why you’re saying sorry
The last thing you want to happen is for you to feel guilty or allow another to make you feel that way. That’s why you should know why you’ll be saying sorry in the first place. Normally, you say sorry because you just don’t have the time to accomplish the request.
It definitely takes a lot of courage to say no, especially if you’re at work. Corrections don’t happen overnight, so you have to be very patient. It took me around a year to get used to the idea. Nevertheless, once it’s embedded in your system, you’ll become more productive, wise, and actually a much better co-worker.
Jeremy @ Personal Finance Whiz says
You have to make the best decision for you and your family. Being a new parent myself, I’ve found that I’ve had to say no to work related things a lot more. There may be times that it will have a negative impact on my career. However, I’ve decided that my family is more important.
Eric J. Nisall - DollarVersity says
I’ve never been too particularly adept at saying no at work. There was one time when I did, however and felt damn good about it. Unfortunately, it lead to my firing, but I knew it was coming so I wasn’t shocked or upset at it.
Money Beagle says
I worked at a job a number of years ago where I actually taught the boss to say no. He would never say no to a customer, but after he saw me say “Well, that’s not going to work but how about….?” and get really positive responses, he realized that it’s OK now and then as long as you still show that you are willing to get whatever needs done done.
Newlyweds on a Budget says
My company is actually very considerate of making sure we aren’t stressed out about work. I had to lead a huge event one time, and i was constantly asked if I was okay, even though I was fine! I tend to say yes, but I usually feel I can handle it. I once had to skip a meeting to make a deadline and my boss appreciated that I was honest with her. Maybe I’m lucky : )
I like to exceed my boss’s expectations, but not ALL the time. If I do it all the time, then i set myself up to higher standards and that won’t be good for my morale. So my technique is to exceed just a few times and then bring it down a notch so keep the standards high but not super high.
Pretending that you are busy when you are really not is a very common practice! Made me smile though when I read. I wish more people would think that it is offensive. 🙂
Hunter - Financially Consumed says
Great article SB. There are limits, and both employees and employers need to recognise this.
I learn how to say no quite a few years ago. If your manager wants you to do more work, you don’t have to say yes or no. The important thing is to make sure everybody knows the impact of adding more work to your plate. If you’re on project A and manager wants you to work on project B at the same time, you will have to convince him that project A will be late. Sure, I can do both, but both will be late.