Saying No In More Challenging Situations

Some people have no problem saying 'no.' But while it might be easy to turn down that blind date with your best friend's sister's cousin, you may not find other things so cut and dry. How do you say no in situations that are a little more challenging?

The problem with saying 'no' is that you're wired to worry about the response of the other person. You're afraid of looking bad or letting someone, whose opinion matters, down. You might be afraid of raising a potential conflict with someone with whom you have to live or work with. So how do you say no to the important people in your life?

1Say No Indirectly

There's nothing scarier than having to say 'no' to your boss. After all, he has power over your paycheck. The trick here is not to say 'no' directly. Ask yourself if you can work a compromise somehow. For example, you might say, 'I'm sorry, but I can't do it until I finish that project this week, but I'd be happy to do it next week.'

2Stay Being Honest

If your boss is requesting something that you can't handle right away, you don't have to be rude in saying 'no.' Your other option? Just be honest and tell details about the projects you're currently handling. You can say, 'I'd love to help, but I don't have the time right now because of the xxx project and the xxx project unless you'd like me to prioritize things differently.'

3Reason Out Using Your Deadlines

When co-workers in the company who are equal or lower to you in status ask you for something, your 'no' should come with a reason. You could emphasize your priorities by saying, 'I really can't right now because I have that other important project deadline on Friday.' Or you could say, 'I can't; the boss just gave me a project that's due Tuesday, which needs to take my time right now.'

4Emphasize On Output Quality

You may say to your officemate, 'I'm so busy that if I were to add that to my plate, I'm afraid I won't be able to give it the attention it deserves, and the quality will suffer.' The statement gives your requesting co-worker the opportunity to rethink how he handles his own plate. By saying no in this manner, you could even increase your workmate's productivity and time management.

5Keep It Simple With Friends And Family

With those closest to you, saying 'no' feels complicated. That's mostly because you have to take into account things such as family obligations or boundary issues. In this case, your 'no' should be simple, only going into as much detail as you need to decline.

Your method may have to be different for different people. 'I can't do it on that night' will work for some, while others might need the extra step: 'because my daughter is in the school play.' With these relationships, remember that tone is everything, and tact is the rule of the day.

You Can Say No Even If It's Challenging

While it seems daunting to have to tell people 'no,' this is a skill you need to hone for the sake of not only your sanity but your overall health as well. Overwork and overcommitment can so easily happen. Saying 'no' then becomes something positive that you can do for yourself, regardless of the circumstances.

Just remember the guidelines you learned above. State your reasons, stay honest, keep it simple, and say no with a mild, controlled tone. Denying a request can be tough, but you can always learn how to do so in a win-win manner.

Donna Gaillard

Donna Gaillard, a resident of Johnson City, Tennessee, works as a quantitative analyst. In her line of work, she has to say 'no' to many people, and that wasn't always easy. Over time, she has learned that the power of saying 'no' is truly valuable.