A couple weeks ago I presented a workshop to help HR professionals recharge. One important element, of many, was the art of learning to say "no". If you are like me, you struggle with always being a people person which is a slippery slope to being a "yes" person. An important tool to setting boundaries is learning to say "no" while remaining approachable. Difficult - yes, impossible - no! I'm going to share with you productive ways to say "no" in a few simple steps.
There is an art and practice behind learning to say "no".
Here's a scenario for you...You are asked by your co-worker, "do you have a minute?" You instantly know that this will not take a minute. Generally with this co-worker a "minute" means at least 30-minutes. And of course, being that people person (and slightly curious of what is about to come up) you say "sure". Now your project with a deadline for tomorrow afternoon has been sidelined again - leaving you to finish it up afterhours.
Of course you could say well this is a time management situation, yes and no. If you are the person people continue to turn to for help, your time and priorities always suffer. - leaving you, guess what, burnt out.
Here's the formula to learning to say "no":
1) Don't just say "no". Just saying "no" makes you look unapproachable and closed off. If you are truly a people person, this would be extremely hard for you anyway!
2) You must be rational in your answer. Follow up your "no" with a rational reason to again, not appear as unapproachable. So, you don't necessarily need to explain your workload or why the project, task, or time isn't good for you. BUT you could explain that at this time you are up against some tight timelines and cannot accommodate the request. Hold your boundaries while remaining a team player.
3) Propose an alternative solution. This next step shows that you are indeed, again, a team player. Your attention to propose an alternate solution is meant to serve in your favor.
4) Compromising on the original request. Compromising shows that you are flexible with the original request and want to work with the person. Whether it is your co-worker, supervisor, employee, or owner of the company.
"It's only by saying NO that you can concentrate on the things that are really important." - Steve Jobs
This formula allows you to hold your boundaries tight and be productive with your fellow teammates. By practicing this formula you remain approachable all while continuing to be productive with your work. So now that we have worked through a scenario and established the formula we can try it out!
Using the original scenario we could see how quickly not saying "no" can add more work to your plate. Instead try this scenario on...You are asked by your co-worker, "do you have a minute?" Respond with, "I actually don't at this time, but I have 20 minutes this afternoon at 2:30pm. Would that work for you?" They may respond with, "Yes, that's perfect," which you then follow up with, "Great, I'll send you a meeting invite and I'll meet you in your office (or workspace) at 2:30."
Don't just say "no" + be rational + propose an alterative + compromise = WIN/WIN!
This approach allows you to reframe the ask and make it fit your schedule. Did you notice that you actually didn't say "no"? And did you notice that you took 10-minutes off of the actually expected time for the conversation? Setting up the intention that you don't have 30-minutes but you do have 20-minutes, which is more than a minute. Lastly, you moved the location of the meeting away from your office, allowing you the ability to leave the conversation after 20-minutes.
On the flip side, you can be kind to other "yes" people by never asking "do you have a minute". We all know that is code for more than a minute. So instead ask, "I have something to review with you. When would you have 20-minutes to discuss, today?" This is such a kind way to help your fellow people, people.
"Freedom isn't the ability to say yes. It's the ability to say no." - Anonymous
This is a practice. Not perfection. Take your time and practice with small scenarios. In the end you will feel must more natural at the art of saying "no". This practice is infectious. As soon as you start saying "no" you will see others change their behavior as well. Especially if you put into practice not asking people "do you have a minute".
The truth about time management is setting boundaries. Don't be afraid to set boundaries for yourself. It will in turn set boundaries for others as well. You can train others around you to respect your time with simple, subtle ques.
If you want to reach out to speak to me about how to build your boundaries and be successful at saying "no", click the button below.