Learn How to Say “NO”

Too much to do. Too little time.

If you find yourself always taking on more than you can handle, you probably have a problem with saying no. It makes you feel guilty, right? But when you say yes when you wanted to say no, that makes you feel worse.

When someone is looking for help, they’re going to call the first “yes” they think they can get. They call you because you’ve established the reputation of being that easy “yes.” Here’s how to turn that around.

The next time you get asked to help, and you know you don’t have time, don’t just say no. Learn how to say it without the guilt. Take these four steps:

  1. Acknowledge the request, as if you would like to help.
  2. Say “No,” and maintain a pleasant facial expression, even if it’s on the phone.
  3. End your response with something positive and upbeat.
  4. Remove yourself from the situation.

Instead of: “No, I can’t do it.” (This will make you feel guilty.)

Try this: “What a great idea! Unfortunately, I don’t have the extra time to devote to such a worthwhile cause. I wish you the best with this and hope you’ll let me know how it turns out!”

Once you say no, remove yourself from the situation so they can’t keep trying to convince you. Say it and get out of there, get off the phone, or bow your head and get back to work. It’ll be tough to do this at first, but the more you try it, the easier it’ll get.

Say No By Saying Yes First

Another way to say no is to say yes first. For example: “Can you do this work for less?”

  • “Yes I can, but I would not be able to give your project the time needed to do a quality job and you deserve better.”
  • “Yes, but we will not have complete success, and that’s all you’ll repeat or remember. I want you to be 100 percent satisfied.”
  • “Yes, but I have to maintain a certain profit margin in order to continue servicing my clients in the way they deserve.”

It’s often hard to get your own work done because you’re so busy helping everyone else. You can be a good community citizen or outstanding team player without always putting your needs and desires last.

Peggy Duncan, SCORE Atlanta
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