Saying NO is more important than you think…

Does this ring any bells…?

You finally get around to organising that weekend away with the family – you know, the one you’ve been promising for the last 100 weekends – when your boss comes to you on Thursday afternoon and says: “We’ve just found out that we’ve won that new contract! But we must have all the logistics in place by next Friday. You’re the only one here that can do that, Jack, but I’m afraid it’s going to mean you working this weekend”.

You start off on the right track… “I’ve got some family commitments this weekend…”, but then you pause…and the boss doesn’t fill the crucial silence…so you do…”but, I suppose I could re-arrange those…” and the deal is sealed with, “Thanks Jack – I knew I could rely on you!”

So why didn’t you say “no”? Was it because the whole team is depending on you? Maybe it’s because the annual reviews are due in the next couple of weeks and you really don’t want a black mark against your name at this time of year? Or do you just lack the assertiveness to spit it out? It could be something as simple as the fact that your family are easier to negotiate with than your boss – BUT, ask yourself who you would miss more if they weren’t around…???…!!!

I’m sure you could add your own examples here…but the main issue is very simple…

Saying, “Yes” when we really mean (and want to say!), “NO” is one of the biggest causes of extra work and associated stress.

The main problem is that we start the process from the wrong end. We start from, “What will people think of me? Will I lose their respect and damage our relationship.” That’s the “Guilt-Trip” worry.

Then there’s the fear of criticism that might undermine our confidence. Even worse, when we all crave being accepted and liked, there’s the fear of rejection. And deep down we feel that if we use our power of “no”, then we’ll be seen as aggressive.

All of these, of course, could be true – but how many are likely to be true?

My “MUST DO” hints on saying “No” confidently, respectfully and without guilt: -

  1. Never be afraid to think first or call for a time-out. People don’t want your kneejerk reaction. They want the reaction that you will follow through on.
  2. Don’t start from “no” – start from saying “yes” to yourself regarding those things you hold to be important – be that family, friends, activities you enjoy or commitments that you have made.
  3. Ensure that those things reflect your core values – those things that you hold as central to who you are and know where your line in the sand is!
  4. Work out some alternatives to just plain “no” – options for the other person to consider.
  5. If that doesn’t work, have a Plan B – but remember that line in the sand!
  6. Choose your battles wisely – some people just automatically say “no” because that’s their nature and then change their minds in seconds. Try not to become known as “The No Person!”
  7. In all situations (potential “yes” and potential “no”), ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen? And am I prepared to accept the consequences of my actions?”

The key to successfully saying “NO” is to make it as positive as you can and that’s not a skill that comes naturally to many people.

More of us easily say “yes” – most of us really struggle to say “No”

So if you’d like some help with that, please free to give me a call. I promise not to say “no”, unless it’s the weekend I’ve promised my family!!!

Or check out our Say “NO” Working Breakfast on our website.

Alan Slater

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