How can I say no constructively? 3 experts weigh in

- May 18, 2020 2 MIN READ

We might not be physically going anywhere, but work for many is just as busy as ever. Perhaps busier. Being more still, doesn’t necessarily equate with being more idle. Which can make it a perfect opportunity to be flooded with requests to lend a hand in some way.

Adam Grant is an American organisational psychologist with a fabulous podcast  exploring workplace dynamic.  

Adam’s solution to feeling inundated with requests for help was to set aside a specific afternoon a week to either follow up on request for his help, or get back to people who sent them.

But what if you don’t have that kind of time? And what if you just want to say ‘no.’

It’s harder than it seems. 

The psychologist 

According to psychologist Melissa Keogh saying ‘no’ actually takes practice – especially for those of us with a tendency to pleasing others. 

“Being raised in an environment where expression of feelings is not encouraged can also make it difficult as an adult to say what we really mean. Take your time with requests asked of you until you actually know how you feel. Sit with the request for a moment, be honest with yourself and ponder whether you can really manage what’s being asked. 

“Using language like “I’m not sure how I feel about that, let me think about it and get back to you” can be helpful.  When you’ve decided you need to say no, do so kindly. Language such as “I’d like to be able to help you but I don’t have the resources/capacity at the moment to do so“. And “Is there anyone else who can help you this time?” For a more assertive approach, you can use the words “I’m going to have to say no”. Or “if I were to say yes, I’d feel like I was disrespecting myself”. 

The insecurity coach 

Jaemin Frazer is the founder of The Insecurity Project, coaching people to overcome their biggest fears and blocks to self belief. 

Jaemin says: 

“The effectiveness of our life is largely determined by what we say yes and no to, so give each of these words out carefully. When you are clear about why you must say no, you’ll work out how to say no – even if it’s not perfect.”

Questions to ponder: 

  • Focus on ‘why’ you’re saying no and not ‘how’. 
  • Why is it essential to say no?
  • What will it cost you to say yes?
  • What will be sacrificed or put on hold if you say yes?

The productivity coach 

Time management expert and author, Kate Christie says we need to prioritise, delegate and reject requests as they come our way. 

“My fail-safe go-to No strategy (without even using the N word) is: ‘Thanks for thinking of me. I’m working to a deadline at the moment, but if anything changes I’ll come back to you.’

Let’s break this down:

*Thanks for thinking of me: it’s polite and tells the requester you’re grateful for the opportunity

*I’m working to a deadline at the moment: these words seems to terrify people, who will nod understandingly while backing away

*but if anything changes: leaves the door open if you change your mind

*I’ll come back to you: stops the requester chasing you.”

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  • Andrew Caska

    Caska IP Patent Attorneys

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