Being able to Say No

It’s much easier to adopt the stance of being ‘a victim of circumstances’ than to take responsibility for a situation by saying no. Here’s an example:

  • Ethan regularly declares, on arriving home after work, that he’s got nothing done that day. What he means is that he’s been delivering on other people’s priorities, which prevents him from progressing his own. But the real problem is that he’s reluctant to say ‘no’. Since the requests keep flying in, he gets more and more overwhelmed with commitments.

Being able to say ‘no’ is a vital skill in conversation. It’s a requirement for staying in control of your life. If you say ‘yes’ to everything, you’re at the beck and call of other people’s demands, and they’re inclined to think that their requirements are more pressing than anyone else’s. Unless you’re able to challenge, decline or negotiate the terms of an agreement before taking it on, you’re likely to sink under the weight of your promises. In fact, you have several options when someone makes a request:

1. Say no.

You can decline. You may have more opportunity to do this than you think. It’s better to say ‘no’ than to say ‘yes’ while knowing that you can’t deliver on it.

2. Negotiate.

You can negotiate the terms of what you are being asked to take on – either the timeframe or what you’ll deliver.

3. Make a promise. 

You can say yes, in which case it becomes a promise.

One other point: if you find you aren’t able to deliver as promised, get back to the person who made the request as early as possible, so that you’re able to manage their expectations.

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