All of us want to be agreeable and to be liked by others—both at work, and in life in general. This very fact, however, leads to a problem that can keep us from achieving the goals we set for ourselves: the inability to say “no.”
So, what’s the problem? Isn’t it better to be able to say “yes” to our customers, coworkers, and boss? Not always.
Unfortunately, when we won’t say no because we’re afraid we’ll disappoint people or hurt their feelings, we end up letting others decide what we will do, or what kind of person we are going to be. As Warren Buffett so accurately pointed out, “You’ve gotta keep control of your time, and you can’t unless you say no. You can’t let people set your agenda in life.”
Take a moment to think back over the past few months. How many times did you find yourself saying yes and then regretting it later? If you’re like most of us, probably more times than you would like to admit.
The good news is that you can learn to say “no,” and you can say it honestly, and with style and grace.
Keep in mind that there are very legitimate reasons for you to say no to the requests of others—particularly when saying yes would require you to do something that’s unreasonable, inconsiderate, or inconvenient—or that takes you away from your own priorities and goals at work or in life.
Here are some of the most common reasons why we have difficulty saying no:
- We feel saying no would be rude
- We need to repay someone for a favor
- We think that it won’t take much of our time
- We believe that it is our responsibility or obligation
- We are afraid that people won’t like us anymore
- We feel guilty about it
- We fear being rejected and losing friends
There’s no magic formula or rule to follow to saying no. It’s a personal choice. But by saying “no” to some requests, we can say “yes” to our top priorities in life.
So if you’re ready to learn how to say no, here are some responses you can use when you don’t want to say yes.
- I’m sorry, but I can’t commit to this as I have other priorities at this time.
- I am in the middle of doing something and now is not a good time for me.
- I feel I am not the right person to help you on this. Perhaps someone else would be better.
- I have a long-term commitment that I cannot break.
- Thank you for thinking of me, however, I already made plans.
- I would love to but I have to say no.
Saying no isn’t easy if you naturally tend to say yes. However, learning to say no is a vital part of getting things done, and staying away from situations that can create unnecessary stress for you. With practice, saying no gets easier and easier.
Give it a try, and you’ll see.