If you are clear about what you are trying to achieve then you will have a steer on whether you should say ‘No’ or not. Have a quick mental check in with your goals if you need to. As a guideline if it’s not your job, not what you are been paid to do, if it doesn’t fit in with your goals, then you should say No.
We place demands on ourselves that we should be saying ‘No’ to. We have ideas and thoughts that take us away from our own objectives. Say ‘No’ to yourself as well as to others. Check in with your goals if you are wandering off plan before deciding what to do.
2. Do it quickly.
Say ‘No’ as quickly as you can. The sooner you do it the more credibility you will have. The longer you leave it the more likely you are to say ‘Yes’ out of guilt. If you leave it, someone else is waiting for your decision and you are holding them up. There are exceptions to this. If you receive a request that you suspect or know has gone to several people, or is ‘spamming’ for a yes, you can get away with ignoring it. If you have said No more than twice, and they are still asking, ignore it. You’ll have to use your judgement as to whether you are better off getting your ‘No’ in quick and risk setting up a dialogue on the subject, or ignoring it because it won’t come back to you.
3. Ask for time to check
If it’s a job that you could do and fits in with your goals and you might want to check your diary, or with your manager, or just yourself before making a decision. Ask for time to get back to them. If this is not a priority for you and will overload you and affect your other responsibilities should you take it on? Set and communicate a deadline for your decision and keep to it. The person who has asked you needs time to make alternative arrangements if you say ‘No’ so respect their priorities by keeping to the deadline. If they can’t give you time to check then say ‘No’ immediately.
4. Don’t defend, explain or apologise
If you do Say ‘No’, respect your own decision. You don’t need to defend yourself, explain or apologise why you can’t do something. So don’t. It’s none of their business why you can’t do something. If your explanation is an opportunity for developing the other person and it would benefit you to take advantage of that, then you explaining may be a good idea. Other than that, don’t.
5. Make sure you say no and not ‘not now’
Be very definite about your ‘No’. So if you can’t do something say so, don’t fudge it by saying ‘you can’t make it’ or ‘you can’t do it now’. If the person asking is very determined then they will make arrangements to accommodate you and you’ll either have to find another excuse or Say ‘No’ again making it more difficult for you and more inconvenient and frustrating for them.
If you can redirect them to someone whose role it is to take on board the job then do so. Not only is this helpful but it’s also supportive. But don’t do more than redirect. Just suggest someone who they could ask. Don’t ask them if they have tried x? or you will enter into a conversation about how they should move their project forward. Don’t take on board the responsibility of finding your own replacement for a job that you shouldn’t have anything to do with in the first place.
7. Say it with gratitude.
How do you actually say No? How about thanking them for thinking of you, say no and redirect if you can.
“Thank for thinking of me however I’m not able to take that on”,
“Thank you for thinking of me but that’s not a priority for me”.
“Thank you for thinking of me but I’m not the right person to do that, try X”
When you have to say ‘No’ as opposed to responding to a written request and are nervous about it then practise saying it several times before you have to say it for real. Make sure that you have listened to the request and paid it full listening attention before you say your bit.
9. Use the reputation statement ‘test’.
What do you want people to say about you? For instance, Do you want people to say that ‘you take on lots of different projects, are always busy, stressed and tired and seem quite muddled about your role’? or would you prefer that your reputation is that you are very focused on what you need to achieve and you deliver?
Create your own ‘reputation statement’ and live up to it. say ‘Yes’ to making it your reality.
How do you say No? and What is your reputation statement? Share your own tips in the comments field.
Bridget Marchi is a learning and development consultant, executive coach and mediator. With over 25 year’s experience in publishing and online fashion she is passionate about working with people to develop strong foundation skills that will support them through their career. Whilst she has extensive experience of delivering classroom style she now offers online learning options with The Time Management ToolBox and Steps to Success, a self-coaching programme for long term success (click the link to get the early bird offer of just £20 – less than half price). She has also published The Management Jigsaw, a management induction course in a book.