We are all stretched to capacity these days, so much to do and often so little time. Then on top of all that you have to manage other people’s demands on your time: interruptions, requests and invites to events you just don’t have time for. You need to draw the line and say NO!
Saying ‘no’ can be tough. How do you do it ‘nicely’ or without offending the other person? Here are a few simple rules to follow and some suggestions for saying no constructively.
First, if it’s a request or invitation:
- Acknowledge the person’s request/invite e.g. “thank you for asking me” or “thank you for bringing this to my attention”. This softens the ‘no’.
- Provide a reason not an excuse. Excuses only compound situations as they don’t provide closure or set positive future expectations.
- Then, if possible, offer an alternative solution to the problem or ask a question. eg. “I can’t help you right now. What I suggest is…” or “I have another commitment, have you thought of…?”
- If you defer them, give a timeframe eg. “Can you come back in 10 mins or how about 2pm?”
Here are 8 alternatives for saying no, all of which can be modified to suit you and the situation
- I AM CURRENTLY IN THE MIDDLE OF ‘X’/A PROJECT RIGHT NOW AND DON’T HAVE SPARE CAPACITY
- Let people know when you have accepted other responsibilities
- No one will fault you for having already filled your schedule
- I’M NOT COMFORTABLE WITH THAT SO MUST REFUSE
- This is a very respectful way to avoid a sticky situation
- I’M RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF SOMETHING, CAN WE DISCUSS THIS LATER?
- You’re not putting them off indefinitely
- Leave the door open
- I HAVE ANOTHER COMMITMENT – SORRY!
- It doesn’t matter what the commitment is
- You don’t have to justify — you simply aren’t available
- I WOULD RATHER DECLINE THAN DO A MEDIOCRE JOB
- Know when you aren’t going to be able to deliver a quality product
- The reason doesn’t matter — not enough time, wrong skills, etc.
- I WOULD FEEL MORE COMFORTABLE HELPING OUT WITH ANOTHER TASK
- Saying no doesn’t mean that you can’t help at all
- I’M NOT ABLE TO HELP BUT LET ME INTRODUCE YOU TO SOMEONE WHO CAN
- Helping to connect people is a valuable service to offer
- Make sure the person you refer will represent you well
- I’M NOT ABLE TO HELP/TALK RIGHT NOW, BUT I CAN DO LATER
- If you really want to help but don’t have time, say so
- If they can’t wait for you, they’ll find someone else
With these options up your sleeve, you can concentrate on the things that you need to get done instead!
Here are some more strategies that can be used in difficult situations.