How to say “no”

30th May 2017

You need to know how to say ‘no’.

Or you’ll end up saying ‘yes’ to everything.

Including things you don’t want to do; aren’t good at; or hate.

And who’d want their day to be packed with stuff like that?

Here’s how to do it…

When you’re asked to do something you don’t want to, remember the phrase – ‘no, but how about…

In other words, say ‘no’ to their request, but offer an alternative way you can help them.

This often leads to a better outcome for both of you:

  • You don’t have to do the thing you didn’t want to do; and
  • They get a good solution, albeit via a different route than they’d expected

So, the secret to being good at saying ‘no’ is to be able to identify alternative ways of delivering what they want. After all, if you can think of lots of alternatives, you now have wriggle room.

I’ve always been OK at this. But I got really good when I wanted to stop working Fridays. I wanted to spend even more time with the children, do the school run, and so on. But what would I do if someone said ‘can you work on Friday?’

Well, we have lots of options:

  • We move the day to Thursday
  • We move the venue, so they come to me while the kids are at school
  • We do it by phone, instead of face-to-face
  • If it absolutely must be Friday, I could recommend other people they could use instead

So, when people ask if I can work Friday my answer is “I can definitely help you. But we might have a challenge with the Friday. Can we explore a couple of options?”

People always respond positively to this. They like the fact I can definitely help. And they’re happy that I’m willing to explore other options, rather than saying ‘no’ outright.

So, to say ‘no’, you need two things:

  • To have a number of alternatives for them
  • Say ‘yes, I can definitely help you. But not like that. Let’s explore other ways we can do it’

Today, someone’s going to ask you to do something you’d rather say ‘no’ to. How will you respond?

Action point

Find something you want to say ‘no’ to. This’ll either be something you’ve recently been asked to do; or something you know’s fast approaching…

And then, do the two actions in the Tip:

  1. Identify alternative courses of action
  2. Script how you’ll respond, so they feel helped

And of course, if the person who’s asking you to do this new task is your boss’s boss’s boss’s boss… maybe just suck it up and do that one!

For lots more advice on how to say ‘no’, check out my online video club. It contains an hour of me giving lots of other examples/techniques for how you can do it.

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