Test your skills in saying ‘No’

by Bob Colclough on July 12, 2012

There are many times in life when we need to decline a request from a colleague or friend. You often feel you have to decide quickly.

You may also be keen to get a win-win result even if you don’t accept the request.

This article gives some suggested approaches and gives a list of real life situations you can test yourself against

Strategies for saying “No”

  1. Show understanding: Say ‘no’ but acknowledge the other person’s feelings – I sure understand that this would be really useful but I can’t do ….. Today.
  2. The rational argument ‘no’. Provide a brief and real reason for declining the request without starting a long discussion. I can’t do this because I have to do…..
  3. The negotiation – a way of saying no to a specific request but offering alternatives. Only do this if you really want to say yes. ‘I can’t do this now but if John can take my reception duty later I could do it then.’
  4. The open discussion of priorities – A way of discussing the request to see if it’s something that you can and want to do: I can’t do it now but when is the deadline? This gives you chance to consider whether you could do it under certain conditions. It also shows genuine interest.
  5. Direct – no apologising, just a ‘no’ or ‘no thank you’ or ‘no I can’t’.
  6. Substitution Say no to a large request whilst offering to carry out a small request. ‘If you can start the report then I can certainly finish it’.
  7. Flattery Whilst I’d like to do… I really think you have much better skills

Some general tips

Be firm and polite but avoid saying sorry too much. You have every right to decide where and how you spend your time. There are only so many hours in the day. So frequently if you take on something additional, something else might have to suffer

Now test your skills

How would you respond to these requests? Use one of the above approaches or take a different approach!

  1. The date is being set for the next team meeting. You are keen to attend but the proposed date accepted by two or three senior people is not suitable for you. One of them says, ‘So that dates OK for the meeting then?”
  2. A colleague asks you for a lift home. It’s inconvenient to you as you are late already and the drive will take you out of your way and make you late home.
  3. A member of staff tells you they want to take responsibility for a new project. You know that they are already over committed and missing deadlines in their current workload.
  4. Without consulting you, a colleague has volunteered you to cover for another colleague who is away. You already have a full day of work planned with your own urgent and important tasks to complete
  5. Another member of staff has asked you to just do ‘a quick piece of work’ for her. This is always happening and the person just seems to assume that you will always be able to accommodate her requests.
  6. You had agreed a specific time to meet with a team member to plan a new customer activity. At the appointed time you approach your colleague and they say, “I’m a bit busy now, can I pop in and see you later instead?” (You do mind as you had carefully planned your day)
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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Katy March 2, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Saying no is a valuable tool (although you need to be cautious not to overuse it). I always liked Anne Lamott’s version – “No is a complete sentence”. While there is a time and place for no to be a negotiation or to be offered with rational arguments, there are also times when that process turns into a huge waste of time (with aggressive vendors, for example).

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