Who's Looking After You? Tip Four, Saying No

Saying ‘no’ is tough for many of us, especially in a work situation.

Why is this?  There are a myriad of reasons; we want to be seen as a team player, a ‘go to’ person, we want to be liked and on a much deeper level we might be afraid that by saying no we are acknowledging that we can’t cope or that we aren’t as good as others believe us to be.  

Despite all of these messages we might be telling ourselves actually the reverse is true.  Saying no can mean even greater success for ourselves and our organisation because we can give ourselves the time we need to do a good job rather than spreading ourselves too thin and doing nothing well.

That said saying no is tough so here are my top tips for saying no:

  • Avoid a knee jerk reaction.  When we’re busy and stressed and asked to take on something else it can cause us to snap back a response that is often over-emotional and out of character.  As tempting as this might be avoid responding with a quick retort.  Ask for some time, saying you’ll get back to them in a while.
  • Be honest.  Once you have taken some time and assessed the request be honest about your reasons for saying no.  Often, in my experience, people will find glib reasons to say no rather than being honest.  Please don’t do this.  Be honest because people have a lot more respect for honesty than they do for half-truths and weak excuses.
  • Offer options.  A no doesn’t always have to be definitive it could be as simple as ‘I can’t do X right now but I should have some time next week’ or if it is a definitive no ‘I’m really sorry I can’t do this, can we see if there are other ways to deal with this’. 
  • Practice.  If you find saying no difficult, practice saying no with friends and family or just by yourself in front of a mirror.  The more you practice the easier it will become.  

So please don’t feel like you have to take the whole world on your shoulders because you are asked to.  The next time you are asked to do something and you don’t have the time be brave and say no!

Mel Loizou

Fish Climb Trees