Learning to Say “No” Without Jeopardizing Your Relationships

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Regardless of who is asking, you can say “no.” Really. I’m serious.  It could be your customer, boss, or team member making a request of you that you can’t or don’t want to meet. And even though you say “no”, you can take important steps towards meeting their needs and reducing or mitigating any anger, frustration or disappointment.

Learning How to Say “No”

Learning to say “no” includes understanding that every person who requests something from you wants 3 simple things.

  1. THEY WANT ASSISTANCE. Every person wants you to say “yes.” They want their issue resolved first and foremost. However, they expect you to be helpful even if you say “no” and their issue isn’t resolved completely. If they recognize that you are making a genuine effort to help them, they will be less likely to take it personally.
  2. THEY WANT ACKNOWLEDGEMENT. More than anything, the person requesting wants you to understand their situation and how they feel about it.  By taking a moment to acknowledge their feelings using appropriate empathy, tone of voice, and body language, you can keep the relationship strong even though you can’t meet their request.
  3. THEY WANT OPTIONS. If you say “no” people still want to feel that they have options and alternatives. Offer options and what you are willing to do whenever possible so that the other person still feels recognized and valued.

By remembering these 3 simple things when managing someone’s request, you will find it easier to say “no” without jeopardizing the relationship. In terms of how you communicate “no” it is also important that you keep in mind the following 7 tips.

7 Tips When Having To Say “NO”

  1. If you can’t help someone, find someone who can and explain what you going to do.
  2. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do. If helpful, patiently explain why you can’t handle their request.
  3. Explain the rationale behind your decision – give people some background or reference information. Perhaps you can handle their request at a later time – explain why.
  4. Be fair but firm. It is important to let them know why you cannot meet their immediate request. Don’t beat around the bush or sugarcoat it – just be honest and direct.
  5. Maintain a caring, helpful manner. Reassure the other person that you are doing everything you can to help them.
  6. Don’t give in to the “squeaky wheel” – you may have to state your position several times before it is accepted.
  7. Maintain professionalism and your reputation. Don’t complain or gossip about the person making the request and how they may have interrupted you and wasted your time making an inappropriate request.

Remember – learning how to say “no” can be absolutely necessary to maintain your sanity, manage your priorities, and stay aligned with your values. The problem is that most of us find it hard to do because we don’t want to disappoint others. Unfortunately, if your not skilled at saying “no” to all the requests that come your way, the most important person that you will disappoint is yourself.

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