Say "no" and be respected for it

Thursday, 17th February, 2011

28 Day Blog Challenge – Day 17

Sometimes it’s hard to s3D Say No Button Click Here Block Textay “no”. We may want to, and feel we have a right to, yet we still find ourselves saying “yes” or “OK” and taking on the associated pressures as a result.

I’m going to put this in the context of work, for this blog, but some of the principles / tips can equally be applied out of the workplace.

Under what circumstances might we need to say “no”?
  • We already have enough on our plate
  • We have other, higher priority jobs
  • What we’re being asked to do is not our job / responsibility
  • We are not qualified (or not insured) to do what’s being asked

Perhaps you can think of more to add to this list.
So we know we sometimes need to say no, but why don’t we?

  1. We don’t want to upset or offend the person asking
  2. We’re not sure how to say no positively
  3. We’re afraid of what people might think of us
  4. We are afraid of the response we’ll get
  5. We might not feel we have the right to say no
  6. We’re indecisive
  7. We’re tired / stressed and it’s easier (in the short term!) to say yes
  8. There’s a lack of confidence to say no

Perhaps you have a favourite from the list above? Or have other reasons?
In my role of coaching / training in the workplace, the most common reasons I come across are the top 3 on the list, and the 7th.

Being respected for saying no involves acknowledging your own feelings and rights, whilst responding respectfully to the other person. It involves being assertive, standing up for yourself whilst not attacking or blaming.

Here are some top tips on saying no and being respected for it:

#1: Smile!
When you smile genuinely whilst saying no it’s showing the other person that there’s no malice intended and you are being respectful of them

#2: Acknowledge their request whilst respecting your own feelings …

  • “I appreciate you’re under pressure, and want some help. I’ll be able to help you once I’ve finished this.”
  • “Thanks for thinking of me, but I already have ______ to do”.

#3: Delay
Experience has shown that if you ask the person to come back later, they usually find a way to resolve their problem in the meantime.

  • “Now is not a good time for me. But I can do (this afternoon / tomorrow)”

Often people ask you to do something as a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to feeling unable to sort it themselves. They can sound as if they urgently need help, but beware that this could be their way of getting things done by proxy!

#4: Stand your ground
Be consistent with your responses if they persistently keep asking

  • “As I said, I’m unable to help you now, but you’re welcome to try me again in about an hour”

Having worked in a highly stressful environment for many years I understand that saying “yes” can be a good way to help each other, develop team spirit etc. But we need to know where to draw the line. If you’re the one doing all the giving, and this isn’t reciprocated, it can lead to unnecessary pressure on you, which has a knock-on effect on your own productivity levels.

Have you any examples of how you say no to your colleagues?

Have you seen others in the workplace effectively say no?


debbie019 fThank you for taking time to read this blog.

I’m Debbie Inglis, a performance coach, mentor and trainer, working with Heads, Principals, School leaders and their teams to maximise leadership performance, create more effective, confident, and motivated teams … in a way that brings out the best in them.

If you’re interested in my services, please get in touch, and you can read more here.