How To Say No The Right Way

By Audrey Sellers

Sometimes, you simply have to say “no.” Whether it’s an unrealistic deadline or an unreasonable workload, you can protect yourself and your team by pushing back against certain requests. However, saying no isn’t always so easy. You don’t want to appear unhelpful to a client or selfish to a colleague. And your boss? They may not tolerate being told no. So, what do you do?

According to Ben Brearley, a leader and coach, you can learn to rephrase your no. There are ways you can decline a request and restructure the conversation without ever saying no. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share Brearley’s suggestions on what to say without saying “no” directly.

“Could we do it this way instead?” If you have an idea for a smarter, more affordable or less complicated approach for you or your team, pipe up. This phrase is a great alternative to saying no. Brearley says you could also say no by making your solution seem like the other person’s idea. You could say something like, “I think [the way you did something] worked great. Maybe we could try a similar approach here.”

“My team is busy with task 1, 2 and 3 right now. Can we work on task 3 later so we can fit in this new work?” The person making the request might not be aware of your current workload. By saying this phrase, you are confirming the priorities. If your boss or the client wants this new project, you may need to push something else to the back burner to get it done. Brearley says you should always be clear so other people know what you have on your plate.

“Do you think [another team or person] could help us with this?” If you think of someone who might have the know-how and the bandwidth to help with the project, ask for help. The other person or group of people can probably help you accomplish the project better, so see if you can share the load.

“I’m concerned about how my team is coping with the workload. Can we discuss some options to accommodate what you need?” This phrase is helpful when you’re communicating to your boss. According to Brearley, many people take on more than they can handle at work because they are afraid of the consequences. However, this approach can backfire. It’s much better to raise your concerns and be honest about what you can handle and where you might need help.

“Based on the plan I’ve developed, we should be able to deliver this by [insert time].” This is another way to say no without really saying no. When you can outline a plan, you can show concrete tasks you are working on and others are less likely to keep piling work on your plate. They’ll know what you already have in the pipeline.

It’s okay to say no sometimes. The key is learning how to say no the right way. By considering the guidance above, you can alert others to your workload and schedule, while keeping your reputation—and job—intact.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers

Source: Ben Brearley is founder of Thoughtful Leader. He is an experienced leader, qualified coach and MBA who is passionate about developing effective, thoughtful leaders.

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Posted in Blog.