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Last Updated on February 27, 2018

One Question to Make Saying No Easier Than Ever

One Question to Make Saying No Easier Than Ever

When you ask someone for help, it’s tough to hear “No.” Those two little letters can hurt our ego. We start to wonder whether the other person cares about us, and we feel embarrassed for making ourselves vulnerable by asking for help. Because we know how much “No” can hurt, we can fall into the trap of saying “Yes” to someone just to avoid hurting their feelings.

For example, let’s suppose you are having a busy day at the office. There’s a knock on your door; it’s a colleague who needs someone to help them finish an urgent report that’s due by the end of the afternoon. They ask, “Would you help me?” You don’t really have time – you have a lot of your own work to get done – but because you know what it’s like to need help yet not receive it, you tell them that yes, of course you’ll lend them a hand.

Why is it so hard to say “no”?

Even the most independent among us have a natural desire for acceptance. It all stems back to our survival instincts. Early in our evolutionary history, it was important that everyone in a group had each others’ backs. Hence it was better for people to say “Yes, I’ll help you!” or “Yes, I’ll defend you!” This “Yes” habit helped both individual and group survival.

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We can live more independent lives these days, but this old instinct is still strong. In addition, we have a desire for social status and belonging. We form attachments to other people, and often want to say “Yes” to others in a bid to win their love and favor.[1]

And when you really manage to say no, the other person feels bad about it (and about you). This is not the result you really hope for.

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    One question that makes all the difference

    So what can you do in situations like this? You don’t want to say “no,” but you don’t want to trample on the other person’s feelings. Luckily, there’s a solution.

    Quite simply, when someone asks you for help, ask “How?”

    This is less confrontational than “no.” It does not threaten their ego, and it places the ball in their court. “How?” holds them accountable for their role in the transaction. It forces them to spell out precisely what they want and need. If they are not able to willing to step up and engage with you, it’s easier to say “No.”

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      Asking “how” instead of giving a straight “no” protects the other person’s ego, and respects their need for belonging, self-esteem, popularity, and love. It isn’t a rejection; rather, it will be interpreted as a question and an attempt to solicit feedback.

      When you ask “how,” you are encouraging the other person to take charge of the situation by specifying what they require. Even if they aren’t quite sure yet what it is that they need, asking them exactly how you can help will force them to think about the steps that need to be taken in order to complete a task. You will soon be able to tell whether they are in genuine need, or are just looking for someone else to complete their mundane tasks.

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      Value your time, turn people down

      If done in the right way, turning someone down can make others respect you. If you draw firm boundaries, the other person will realize that you are not someone they can push around. Instead, they will see you as someone who holds themselves in high regard.

      When you give an impression of confidence, others will pick up on that. In a business setting, marking yourself out as someone who is willing to say “no” to arrogant individuals may increase demand for your services.

      The next time someone asks you for help and you don’t want to say “yes,” just ask “how” instead. It’s incredibly simple, yet very effective. It works with colleagues, friends, and relatives. Just think of all the time you’ll save when you stop saying “yes!” to everyone.

      Reference

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      Anna Chui

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      The Gentle Art of Saying No

      The Gentle Art of Saying No

      No!

      It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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      But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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      What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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      But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

      1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
      2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
      3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
      4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
      5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
      6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
      7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
      8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
      9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
      10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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