Saying “No”

Saying “No”

Summary: Are you always being asked to help, join or lead? Are you finding it difficult to say “no”? Start changing it now and be empowered by it.


How to say no

Are you the person everyone comes to for help, to join a committee or to lead a group? I know I am.  One of the hardest things I have had to do is to learn to say is “no”. One of the reasons it so difficult is because we may think saying “no” is a sign of disrespect, lack of interest, or unwillingness to serve. I prefer to think of “no” as empowering – in the sense of it gave me control of my time, priorities again.

How does this happen?

For me it started early in my career when I was a work-a-holic. You know the saying, “if you want something done, give it to the busiest person”, that was me. You could be the person who always seemed to have the answer or the one who was willing to help the new person.  Look back and you can probably pick up where it started.

How to change it.

This can be the tricky part. Most of us are not comfortable with a straight out “no” to a request. Let me share my criteria to decide if I should say yes or no to a request:

  • Do I have the time?
  • Is it really a priority?
  • Can someone else do it?
  • Can a teach someone else to do it?
  • What’s the benefit to me? (advance career, business, connections, etc.)

I used to work with someone who was good at the “no”, granted he was more direct than I am, he had a great saying on his wall (you may relate).

A lack of planning on your part, does not constitute an emergency on mine.

Essentially, this is what you are asking yourself with the above question.

Redirect the request.

I find the easiest way to do this is by asking questions, it also helps the other person understand what they are asking. Your questions will vary depending on the request, here are some examples.

When in the workplace:

  • When is this needed?
  • How high of a priority is this?
  • If I need help to get it done on-time, is there anyone who can help?
  • Can I bring in additional resources to meet the deadline?
  • I will need to re-prioritize my activities, which ones do you think we can change the deadline?

When in business/outside of workplace activities:

  • What is the time commitment?
  • Who is involved and what are their roles?
  • Is it possible to attend several times before deciding?
  • Out of curiosity, what value do you think I can bring?

Once you get your answers, re-frame your “no” to fit the situation. For example – my schedule doesn’t allow for that time commitment or I’m sorry, I have greater priorities or If it can wait until Friday then I can help you.

Give it a try and feel empowered and liberated.

How to you say “no”? (share below in comments)