5 Ways to Say ‘No’ Effectively
Updated: Mar 21
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We all get bombarded with requests and demands for our attention and our time. Learning to say “No” in a way that is respectful but firm is a key skill you can develop to handle those requests you simply do not have time for (or the knowledge to do effectively).
I recently re-read the book, The Power of a Positive No, written by William Ury. His book offers great advice and tips for how to say “No” with grace and effect. In his book, William offers the following specific phrases you can use to say “No” to the demands of others in a manner that is appreciative and flows naturally and sincerely:
“NO” OR “NO THANKS.”
Directness has its place, but it can also be expressed gracefully. Adding the word “thanks” to your “no” shows respect and care for the relationship.
“I HAVE A POLICY.”
Examples include, “I have a policy to never lend money to friends or family members,” or, “I have a policy to never make significant purchases without first speaking to my wife (or husband, or partner).”
“I HAVE PLANS.”
A great concrete everyday phrase that can affirm your interests as well as your power without spoiling your relationship is, “I already have plans,” or, “I have another event I’ve committed to that evening.”
Maybe another time. This softens the blow of a “No” and leaves the door open to a future request. “Not now” should only be used in those cases where there does exist a real possibility for addressing the others’ needs in the future.
“I PREFER TO DECLINE RATHER THAN DO A POOR JOB.”
When you decline rather than do a poor job, you are not only affirming your own interests but also paying attention to the relationship. You would both be worse off, and so would your relationship, if you say “Yes” and then a job that turns out to be much less than satisfactory.
Know your limits and acknowledge them freely. Spend your time doing what you do well and what is truly best for you. Both you and the other person will be better off in the long run.
Andy Robinson, Executive Coach
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