I’m not going to lie, I can be quite the people pleaser and as a result I don’t like feeling that I might be letting people down. This makes saying no to requests at times rather difficult for me, so it’s something I’ve been working on lately. Today I thought I would share some tips I’ve learned for saying no, and I’d love your thoughts as well!
Before we start focusing on saying no, it’s worth considering why saying yes all the time isn’t the best idea, and there’s a few reasons. If we say yes to everything we’re likely to end up overcommitted, overworked, prioritising other people’s requests over our own and end up completely frazzled. On the flip side, saying no lets us set boundaries, choose what makes us happiest and gain back some of our own time.
Keep it short and clear
When responding no to someone’s request keep your answer short and clear. There’s no need to beat around the bush, or provide lengthy explanations. You can be short but courteous at the same time though! Try phrases like:
- Unfortunately I can’t, but thanks for thinking of me
- Sorry, I have a conflict and can’t make it
- Perhaps next time
- I have too much on to be able to do this task properly at this stage
Know the implications of saying yes
If you can be clear in your own mind what the implications are of you saying yes – working longer hours, not going to an event you would prefer to be at, ending up not getting enough sleep – then saying no is much easier. It doesn’t just have to be for big requests either – all the little 10-20 minute tasks can add up quickly. Ask yourself what you would be giving up, what you might gain, what the implications might be of saying either yes or no, then use that to help weight your decision.
Buy yourself some time
If you struggle to say no in the moment, try buying yourself some time to respond. This might be as simple as saying ‘can I get back to you on that’, which gives you time to properly consider the request. Be gracious and courteous, thank them for thinking of you, then set a time frame for getting back to them with an answer. This also allows you to get back to them in whatever medium you’re most comfortable.
Propose an alternative
Instead of an outright no, you might want to propose an alternative. This might mean seeing if you can put off an event until your calendar clears up, or explaining that given your work schedule you can’t start a project for another week. This also allows the person doing the asking to consider their options, making it particularly effective at work. If you know the additional task would make meeting previous deadlines difficult, you can use it as an opportunity to ask for clarity on priorities.
Don’t feel guilty
We often think that saying no makes us bad people, and as a result we feel guilty about it. The truth is however that if we say yes to everything we’re unlikely to be performing at our best at work, or be our most present when catching up with friends. Realising that it is ok to say no, and not feeling guilty about can be difficult, but it’s so important. Most people will understand as well, and if you’re polite and respectful about it you’re highly unlikely to burn any bridges.