Advertising

Published on November 24, 2020

How to Say No Politely And Professionally

How to Say No Politely And Professionally
Advertising

Do you find that you have a hard time saying “no” when something is asked of you? I felt like this for most of my life and still fight the urge not to immediately blurt out “sure!” when someone asks me for their help. I could probe under my mental hood for why I have this innate inclination to say yes but at the end of the day, it’s simply part of who I am. I know I have a lot of company in feeling this way.

There’s a whole plethora of books and reading material on how to say no to the many things asked of us in life. Many of us are raised in such a manner that we feel we should always be helping others. That we should always be willing to lend a helping hand whenever possible. And many of us are taught that to get ahead in our work life, we should be willing to “do what it takes” and take on additional responsibilities.

You have to work hard to get to the top of your profession. And these things are true to a point. It’s when we always say yes to things that are asked of us that we risk burnout and overcommitting ourselves. With that let’s look at how to say no politely and professionally.

Why Saying Yes all the Time Isn’t a Good Thing

There’s a well-used term for people that say yes to everyone and everything. It’s called being a people-pleaser. And I was a world class people-pleaser. It’s not bad, of course, to help out when asked to or pitch in when needed. The problem arises when you say yes to everything.

In short, you realize you are living your life for others and not for yourself. Saying yes to everyone all the time can lead to some bad long term issues.

Resentment

One of the worst things that come from saying yes all the time is a growing feeling of resentment towards others. When your friend who never does his homework asks you yet again for your notes, how does that make you feel when you slide them over to him?

One time, I was training a new person on my team. I showed them how to do something. And then I showed them again. And again. After a few months, I realized I was doing a ton of this person’s work simply because they asked for my help again, claiming they didn’t quite get it.

Advertising

When I realized what was going on, I told them it was time they figured it out on their own. I woke up to how resentful I was to be working with someone who took my kindness and turned it into a way for them to do less work.

Mentally and Physically Fatigued

Something else that commonly happens when we say yes all the time is we become fatigued, both mentally and physically. If you have to lose sleep in order to check everything off your to do list and a lot of that is for other people, you’re going to wind up getting more and more tired.

I know from experience when I am trying to tackle too much, I have a hard time sleeping because I can’t shut my brain off. I can’t turn it off because I keep thinking about everything I have to take care of, much of it not impacting my own life. This is taxing to say the least.

Not Your Life Anymore

When we wind up doing more than we should for other people, we wind up not working on our own lives as much as we should.

We can get to the point of feeling like we aren’t even living our lives because we are paying too much attention and time on things that are important in other people’s lives. This is not a good place to be in at all.

An extreme example of this is someone that is taking care of another person who can’t take care of themselves for one reason or another. Of course, we want to be there for our loved ones when they need our help. That said, when one person has to take care of another for an extended period, it can feel like the person tending doesn’t have their own life any longer.

Losing Boundaries

One of the best ways to get to a place of how to say no politely and professionally is to establish boundaries. Boundaries are something I learned about later than I would have liked to but once you discover them, it’s a very freeing feeling to establish them in your life.

Advertising

Boundaries are essentially something you create in order to live the type of life you want to. It’s sort of like a set of guidelines that you have set in your life. From time to time, you share them with others depending on the situation.

Some examples may include working no more than 45 hours in a week at your job, or not staying in an unhealthy relationship. We typically learn to set our boundaries when something happens in our lives that makes us say ‘I don’t want that situation again.” Here’s a few examples of my boundaries:

I bought a truck several years ago. Almost immediately, people began to ask me help them move something. Which of course, I did at first. Once it got to a point where I was helping people numerous times a week, I decided I would help someone with my truck once every two weeks and only at a time that was convenient for me.

I enjoy having a full life. That said, I don’t like my life to be full with just my day job. Therefore, I limit the number of hours worked per week in my day job to 45. If the number of things on my plate take up more than 45 hours, and they almost always do, I prioritize working on what’s important first and foremost.

Now, let’s find out how to say no politely and professionally in order to keep our sanity.

How To Say No Politely and Professionally

The key to saying no politely and professionally is to frame the “No” in different manners so you’re not just awkwardly staring back at someone and then mumbling a “I can’t do it”.

There’s different ways to say no to various people you interact with in a way that works for you, and still be polite and respectful towards the other person. Here’s a few to consider.

Advertising

To Your Boss

Saying no to your boss can be intimidating. And unless you enjoy eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner at your desk, sometimes you will reach a point where you have to tell your boss thanks but no thanks.

To your boss, you want to paint the picture that you are honored to have been considered for the additional work, but other priorities will make that not possible right now. Something along the lines of:

“I really appreciate you thinking of me for this project. Currently I was planning on spending this week/month on projects X,Y, and Z. As I recall those were high priorities”.

“Wow, thanks so much for bringing this to me. Right now I have a full load working on project X & Y. Would you prefer I set aside that work and spend my time on this new project instead?”

To Your Colleagues

I love helping out my colleagues and really appreciate their help from time to time as well. However, sometimes I am not able to lend a helping hand due to the workload I have at the moment. In this case, you’ll want to keep it pretty close to the truth whenever possible.

“That’s a very exciting initiative to be heading up Brian, you must be stoked! Thanks for asking for my help with the survey piece of it. Truth be told, this is not what I’d consider an area of strength for me, I’d probably slow things down. Lisa is pretty good at those, you might ask her”.

“You know I normally love doing this type of work Beth and I really appreciate you asking for my help with the layout part of it. Unfortunately, the timing isn’t good, our boss Mark has me working on a presentation to the ELT for next week”.

Advertising

To Your Clients

Saying no to a client can be tough. After all, they are the ones paying you. The main thing here is to make sure your client feels heard and understood. Once you fully listen to their input or want, share with them how you are addressing this very issue from another angle.

“You know Bob, I completely get what you are saying and couldn’t agree more. I was thinking that we would be able to address the 36-45 age range when we highlight the positive results in compound XYZ”.

“Karen that is great, I appreciate you pointing that out and bringing it up to make sure we address it. Mandy on the team has been looking into that as well, I’ll ask her to share her thoughts on what she has discovered in our meeting on Thursday”.

In Your Personal Life

With people in your personal life, it’s best to say no and the reason why. Maybe you’ve already got something else planned, or it could be you just don’t want to. Of course, you want to be respectful of people’s feelings; but with your closer, more personal relationships, it’s best to be honest about why you are saying no.

One of my rules to help keep me on the path of not always saying yes is that I am always happy to help someone, providing they are doing the main work. After all, someone is asking me for my help in their life, so they should be the one doing the heavy lifting.

This has come up in many situations. When my oldest daughter would complain about not having any money, I’d offer to help her make a budget. She would need to set a time and place and I’d be happy to help her. When someone has asked me to help them move something with my truck, of course I’m happy to help – here is when I am available: You want me to help you in the yard? Sure I can certainly do that. However I am not available today, I already have things planned.

Bottom Line

With a little luck, you’ve learned something about how to say no politely and professionally. Helping others out from time to time is great, it’s nice to know that you can count on others when needed and visa versa. It helps us feel connected and part of something greater than ourselves.

Advertising

Unfortunately, it can become too easy to say yes to too many requests for help. This can lead to resentment and burnout. When someone asks for your help, take a moment to consider if it’s something you genuinely want to do and can do, or if it’s better to say no politely and professionally.

More About the Art of Saying No

Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

More by this author

Mat Apodaca

On a mission to share about how communication in the workplace and personal relationships plays a large role in your happiness

How to Be Influential and Gain Respect at Work How to Deal With Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide) How to Take Constructive Criticism Like a Champ How to Memorize a Speech the Smart Way How to Say No Politely And Professionally

Trending in Communication

1 I Want To Be Happy: 7 Science-Backed Ways to Find Happiness 2 13 Ways Happy People Think and Feel Differently 3 10 Morning Habits Of Happy People 4 What Makes People Happy? 20 Secrets of “Always Happy” People 5 13 Simple Habits of Happiness To Change Your Outlook on Life

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
Advertising

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

Advertising

  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

Advertising

Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

Advertising

However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

Advertising

Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

Advertising

  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

Read Next