In a work situation, there may be situations, tasks – or people – that you really feel you can’t say ‘no’ to. These may change as you grow in age and experience, or with the length of time you have been with your employer. For example – a new recruit may feel uncomfortable turning down requests early on in their employment. The truth is that we all have a thing or two to learn about how to – politely – say ‘no’ to those tasks and activities we either haven’t got time for, or simply don’t want to do.
Know what you’ll say ‘yes’ toIt sometimes helps to be absolutely honest with yourself about those additional requests that you do feel able to help with. This will make it easier for you to say ‘no’ to those that fall outside of the parameters you’ve set yourself. What do we mean by this? It could be that you are happy to help your colleagues with ad-hoc requests that fall within your specialist area, but unwilling to help with general tasks when other team members could equally help out.
Acknowledge and appreciate why people turn to youIt is easy to feel put upon when people constantly ask you to complete additional tasks, especially when you find it difficult to say no. If this is the case for you, a good starting point to easing the stress you feel is to remember why people turn to you. Generally, we only ask favours of those we can trust to get the job done. We choose to seek help from those people with the capabilities to deliver great results on our behalf. So, however stressed out these additional requests make you feel, it always helps to start from a place of appreciation.
‘No’ doesn’t have to have negative connotationsThis article from Psychology Today explains that all too often we associate the word ‘no’ with negativity when really it is just about us making a choice. It suggests we should take more power from saying ‘no’, as it helps us to establish and maintain boundaries and how we assess our own self-worth, in relation to the needs and desires of those around us.
Of course understating why people ask us to do things, and acknowledging what we will and won’t do, is only half the battle. Saying ‘no’ does get easier with practice and until we get more comfortable with saying ‘no’ when we need to, here are our two top tips:
Be directSay what you mean and give a short explanation why, for example: I can’t this week I have too much on; or I don’t think I’m the best person to do that. Don’t tell people you’ll think about it – that just prolongs the agony and adds to your stress – and try not to get involved in long conversations about it. The longer you chat, the more time the other person has got to persuade you to change your mind. Be polite, be firm and to the point.
Don’t apologiseTry not to apologise for your inability to take on the extra tasks. Recognise that by saying no you are placing a greater value on your own time, than you are on the needs of others. Remember too, that this is nothing personal – you are saying no to the task, not the person who asked and there’s no need to apologise for that.
The good news is that once you have got out of the negative cycle of agreeing to do everything that is asked of you, it becomes easier to say ‘no’. Not only that, people soon come to realise that you are more than happy to say ‘no’ and are more likely to explore other avenues of help and support before they come to you, as a result. It’s a win-win situation.
For more tips on how to say ‘no’, have a look at this blog post on PsychCentral