Some people have no problem saying ‘no.’ But, while it might be easy to turn down that blind date with your best friend’s sister’s cousin, you may not find other things so cut and dried. How do you say no in situations that are a little more challenging?
The problem with saying ‘no’ is that we’re wired to worry about the response of the other person. We’re afraid of looking bad or letting someone down whose opinion matters. We might be afraid of raising a potential conflict with someone with who we have to live or work.
So how do you say no to the important people in your life?
1. Your Boss
There’s nothing scarier than having to say ‘no’ to your boss – after all, he has power over your paycheck. The trick here is not to say ‘no’ directly. Ask yourself if you can work a compromise somehow. For example, you might say, “I’m sorry but I can’t this week until I finish that project, but I’d be happy to do it next week.” Your other option? Just be honest. “I’d love to help, but I don’t have the time right now because of the xxx project and the xxx project, I unless you’d like me to prioritize things differently.”
2. Your Co-workers
This one should be a little easier than the last one. When co-workers in the company who are equal or lower to you in status ask you for something, your ‘no’ should come with a reason. Typically, you have three choices:
- Other projects: “I really can’t right now because I have that other important project deadline on Friday.”
- Quality of output: “I’m so busy that if I were to add that to my plate, I’m afraid I won’t be able to give it the attention it deserves and the quality will suffer.”
- Having to prioritize: “I can’t, the boss just gave me a project that’s due Tuesday that needs to take my time right now.”
3. Your Friends & Family
With those closest to you, saying ‘no’ feels complicated, mostly because you have to take into account things such as family obligations or boundary issues. In this case, your ‘no’ should be simple, only going into as much detail as you need to decline. That may be different for different people. “I can’t that night” will work for some, while others might need the extra step: “because my daughter is in the school play.” With these relationships remember that tone is everything and tact is the rule of the day.
While it seems daunting to have to tell people ‘no’ this is a skill you need to hone for the sake of not only your sanity but your overall health as well. Overwork and over-commitment can so easily happen. Saying ‘no,’ then becomes something positive that you can do for yourself – regardless of the circumstances.
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