How to Say No

Posted on Aug 7, 2013

If you have trouble saying No (like most of us do) then the key to improving this may be changing the way you look at it.

Firstly, before you respond to a request:

–  Weigh up what it will cost for you to say yes. How much time will it take, what do you have to give up to do it, can you actually fit it into your schedule? Remember that your time is important and it’s okay to say no when you can’t fit things in.

–  Are you actually the right person to help them? Think about this carefully as sometimes we can assume we are, even though we actually need to direct them to someone else. Assisting someone effectively isn’t about saying yes, it’s ensuring they get the right assistance (and this may not be you).

–  Can they do it themselves? We leap into help a little too quickly sometimes, instead of respecting a person’s ability to do it themselves. Instead, can you direct them to call someone or inform them about a useful resource. Doing this will not only save you time and answer their question but it will also ensure they receive help quickly – which they will appreciate.

–  Do you actually know what they’re asking? Sometimes what people ask for isn’t always what they need and equally we can sometimes misunderstand a request. Make sure you confirm your understanding, so you don’t spend unnecessary time solving the wrong problem.

–  Do you need to do it right now? In our desire to help we can sometimes assume it needs to be done straight away. However, you may not need to say no, if you can schedule a more appropriate time to do it.

Secondly, when you decide to say no, you can use a number of different ways that are appropriate to the situation. The key is to find a way to say no that suits you, using a language and approach that you are comfortable with. Here are some suggestions for different situations (feel free to change them to suit your language).

When you’re not the right person to assist them – “Unfortunately I don’t know enough about that to be of proper assistance to you and I want to avoid giving you the wrong advice”.

When you’re not the right person to assist them but you know who is – “You know who can really assist you – John. He is brilliant at ….. and the best person to answer that question. You can contact him on…….. ”

When they can easily do it themselves and may just need some direction – “Actually that’s something that’s very easy to do – all you need to do is…”

When you don’t have time – “Unfortunately I’m in the middle of something at the moment, but I can definitely help you with that tomorrow morning”.

Next time someone asks for your help try not to think about it being a decision between saying Yes or No. Instead, consider their request thoughtfully, focus on helping them effectively and they will thank you for it.