The Magical Art of Saying No

There’s a special art of saying no that is important to master. And while it may seem contradictory, learning to say no can result in higher productivity. It’s a way to set boundaries, take ownership of your time, and teach people how and when they have access to your skills. Once you’re comfortable saying no, you can start saying a big ’ol yes to the things that advance your goals. 

We’ve outlined important steps to follow when deciding and communicating your no’s. Following this approach will help you craft tactful and respectful responses that help to maintain, rather than damage, relationships. 

Tip from Nicole:

If someone pops into my day for a “quick ask” or a “favor,” I take a moment to determine if it’s a distraction or something I want to support in the moment. If I’m not immediately available, I ask if we can discuss at a later time or if they could email me. This allows me to better manage the use of my time.

Craft a Tactful and Respectful Response

1. Give yourself time to say no

Simply tell the requestor you aren’t available right now or need time to review your calendar. Then take this time to consider the request and actually review your calendar. To prevent overanalyzing or leaving the requestor hanging, offer a specific date or timeframe for your response and make good on that date. 

2. Evaluate the request

Now that you’ve set the request on your timeline, it’s time to evaluate the ask. Determine if the task is right for you, and if so, when you have the time to provide your full attention. Is this right for your skill set? Do you have the budget – time, money, or otherwise – within your established boundaries? What value does it bring? Consider the potential emotional toll on both yourself and the requestor, such as added stress, frustration, or resentment, and make your decision. 

3. Determine if you want it take it on at a later date

Following your initial evaluation, think about the request with a long-term mindset. Does a hard no prevent future opportunities you’re excited for? Is there an option to, and value in, taking this on at a later date? Is there a variation of the request you would be willing to support? If it isn’t worth reframing the terms, then reconfirm your no decision. Don’t push your boundaries just to appease others. 

4. Keep it brief 

Don’t get too caught up in explaining yourself. No is a valid answer, and a lengthy explanation is not likely to add much value. Provide a brief rationale that aligns to the outcome of your evaluation, such as time restraints, misalignment, and/or competing tasks. If you’re comfortable, you can offer up an alternative solution as a way of supporting within your boundaries. 

“This sounds like a great idea, but unfortunately, I don’t have the schedule availability to commit at this time. However, you might find this resource helpful in moving your project forward.”

Showing an understanding of the request with a clear yet concise rationale shows the requestor you heard them and thought about what it would take to deliver. 

5. Keep the door open (if it’s right for you)

Through your analysis, you’ve determined that while you cannot commit now, it’s a future opportunity you’d like to be involved with. Consider what it will take to make things work and propose your solution. 

“I appreciate your request and would love the opportunity to work with you. I am not currently available to commit resources, but I have a project that is expected to wrap at the end of the month. Let’s schedule time to revisit your request or connect on other opportunities to collaborate.”

Say no for now until you can dedicate the time and energy without burning yourself, or your employees, out. 

Evaluate When to Say No

1. Negative impacts to your bottom line

Will taking on the task impact your revenue in a positive or negative manner? If it’s negative, then it’s a pretty clear indication to say no.

2. Can you just…

Get clear on the level of effort and time commitment to mitigate scope creep. “Can you help me really quick? Or can you just do that?” It may seem simple, but every task has a trade-off. Do you have resources to cover all of the extras? If not, it’s time to say no. 

3. There’s a better solution

Your client may think their request is the best way forward, but you have a better idea. Saying “No, but…” is a great way to say no while suggesting a better solution.  

4. Misalignment with YOUR goals

When evaluating, consider what’s in it for you. If the request goes against your goals or is otherwise misaligned, it’s in your best interest to gracefully decline. Is a prospective client aligned to your ideal or would they push you in a different direction from your vision? Is a colleague asking a favor you could easily do but sets the wrong precedence if you take it on, leading to future requests? Consider the long-term effects in your evaluation.

5. Personal time

While our focus has been on business-related requests, everything we’ve said applies to your personal life as well! You’re allowed to say no to a night out, a trip, or some other family/friend event if it’s not right for you in that moment. It’s important to recharge when it comes to both work-related and social events.

The Benefits of Mastering the Art of Saying No

Saying no is part of maintaining your boundaries, and as we know, boundaries create a slew of benefits. Here are some of the biggest benefits, with more details found in Boundaries for an Even Keel.

work-life balance
  • Stay present to the task at hand
  • Create you-time
  • Maintain organization
  • Allow flexibility 
  • Simplify decision-making

Have You Mastered the Art of Saying No?

Are you a master at saying no? Or are you experimenting with learning how to say no? We’d love to hear what your techniques are and what the outcomes have been. Drop us a line

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Hi I'm Nicole

Struggling in your work environment? Need to streamline your processes? Is your work-life balance unbalanced?

We’d love to help you overcome any work challenge you’re facing! Contact us to set up a free consultation to discuss how we can help.

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