Believe it or not, it’s more than just saying “NO”. Why? Because too often, instead of saying no, we find ourselves qualifying the statement with things like, “Maybe” or “Not now”, “I’m not sure I can” or “We’ll see”. None of those statements have actually said NO, even if you’d intended for them to.
In fact, I often hear people venting that they thought they said NO, but they find themselves still obligated to the thing they didn’t want to do;
· “Well, I told her I didn’t have time, but she said to take it home,” or “I thought I said no but it’s still on my desk,” or even “It’s not my job but if I don’t do it, nobody else will.”
It’s an unfortunate possibility that these are the stories we’re telling ourselves to justify why it was too awkward or difficult to be clear and stand firm to the decision.
As with most communication solutions, it’s all about creating better habits. In this case…the habit of providing the ‘asker’ with other options of their own.
5 Solid Steps to Communicating Your Final Decision
- Acknowledge the request. We all have equally pressing items to get done at any given moment. Keep in mind that respecting that knowledge comes first – Ex., “I know this is important and I can see that you are concerned about it getting done.”
- Decline the request. You have to actually say it. This is not the time for passive aggressiveness – do not grunt, whine or roll your eyes in distaste; they are only signs of doubt. Ex., “I’m not able to help you,” or “I simply cannot add anything to my own obligations.” Be sure to consciously use a firm, but respectful tone of voice and body language. DO NOT say things like, “I’d love to but…” or “I know you need me, but…” – it’s likely that neither statement is 100% true and both set the tone for sounding like you actually do want to say yes.
- Give reasons. It’s perfectly okay to state what you are already working on, without sounding like it’s an excuse and without leaving the door open for deviation. Ex., “I need to complete my own deadlines this week,” or “I have to turn in this report on time.”
- Suggest alternatives. While it’s never okay to name names, suggesting they try someone else is a viable alternative. Just remember not to insert reasons you think someone else may be available – let them determine it for themselves. Another alternative can be to provide a time frame – Ex., “Check back with me next week, I’ll have a better idea of my workload by then.“
- Stop accepting favors. Favors are a common way to sugar-coat a request into sounding personal, and therefore more unavoidable. Keep things professional and negotiate instead. If you’re going to accept someone’s task today, be sure you establish the exchange at that moment; know what you’ll be getting in return (and when). Avoid owing anyone anything – scorecards tend to become blurry with time.
What happens when you get push-back?
Standing your ground is all well and good, but sometimes people simply don’t respect your boundaries. The bottom line is that only you are in control of your own time and work ethic – Don’t allow someone else to RE-prioritize you.
Tactics to following your Solid Steps;
- Be the Broken Record – You may find yourself having to repeat steps 2, 3 and 4. So be it. The moment you change or deviate from your message, there is an opportunity for the asker to wiggle in with reasons of their own.
- Support Your Opinion – Ultimately it’s YOUR decision to say yes, not anyone else’s. Be okay with having to agree-to-disagree and simply state, “I’m sorry it’s not what you want to hear, but I see it differently.”
- Have a Visible PlayBook – Call it a gameplan, a timeline, a bulletin board, an action chart…whatever, but feel free to publicly showcase your priorities. People can see that you intend on staying the course with your own goals; this ultimately serves to support and validate step #3.
Other Great Resources: