THURSDAY THOUGHTS! - Do you find saying "no" easy?

Posted by | January 24, 2013 | Thursday Thoughts | No Comments

528892_546910501994203_1040943432_nWithout the ability to say “No” occasionally, you will inevitably become stressed through being overstretched.  If you find this difficult, then you won’t be alone.  There will be various reasons for why you find this difficult: they could include an inner guilt, inner conflict or a misguided perception that you can do it all.  At various times in our respective careers, we’ve all been there!

However, learning to say “No” can be one of the biggest favours you do for yourself, and for those you love – remember or revisit our first Thursday Thoughts! of 2013 here so perfecting this approach will go a long way to reducing stress and creating more time for whats really important to you – again, revisit this post.


But the big question is “How?”, because the manner in which you say no sends a strong message to the recipient.  Delivered well, it says you value your own time, that you have the same time as everyone else in the team, that you have priorities and that you respect the relationship you have with the person you are saying  no. to.

If you are competent at your job, then the number of worthy requests will not diminish, and you certainly can’t add more hours to a day – it is what it is!

“Power in Delivering a Positive No!” is actually a Harvard Business School course.  Toddlers learn this skill very early on, but we seem to forget how to do it, or more to the like, we recognise the risk we take in exerting it as we get older.  On the basis that we cannot all be fortunate enough to go off to Harvard, in the meantime, here are just a few hints and tips on doing it in such a way that doesn’t offend, destroy, or be harmful in any other way:


  • Tone is everything!  Just try “I’m sorry, I can’t do this for you right now” in a variety of tones and ask a good friend to tell you which one they found hit the mark
  • Try: “let me think about it and I will let you know when I can do this for you” – This is commonly known as uncovering your deeper YES, when you buy some time for something that really hits a core interest or need/value.
  • Negotiate to a healthy YES: Deliver a respectful NO. Don’t reject but offer respect and keep a neutral, matter of fact tone.  Try: “I can’t do this precisely, but I can do this towards it”.  This is commonly known as empowering your NO with a Plan B. In effect you follow up with a positive counterproposal and facilitate a wise agreement, ie a win/win strategy which we’ve previously covered in this series too.

Please do let me know your own experiences on saying no – I’m sure we all have a story to tell on this one.

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Sharon Davidson
Organisational development professional specialising in personal, team and whole organisation improvement. Full range of OD tools and techniques available including: Belbin team role analysis; learning style inventories; 360 degree feedback; cultural assessments; personality psychometrics; strategic planning and workshop facilitation. (This list is not exhaustive!)

Improvement is everyone's concern: +44 1550 720902 will start that process today.

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  • Peggy Edwards says:

    I am terrible at saying no because I always want to try and help. However I have learnt if I go back and say ‘I would love to help but can you outline exactly what you need and timescales, so I can ensure I can schedule this in appropriately’ you will be surprised how many people don’t come back with an answer. I feel good because I did offer and I don’t get to do the work.

  • Aresko says:

    So many people don’t know what they are asking for, merely that they have “something” that needs to be done and someone in mind who they think could do it. Add to that all the vagueness that accompanies this sort of scenario, and its no wonder why folk come away with unclear direction and no idea of what is needed to complete the task. Its sloppy management, which a few questions for clarification can so easily avoid. It can also flush out whether you are indeed the right person to do this, or someone else. Helpful people too quickly become seen as “go to” people, and unless they can have these mature conversations, can often feel dumped upon.

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