The art of saying ‘No’

March 11, 2021

Written by Anna Bauer

Attention, what everyone and everything is demanding from us, but that we can only give it to one person or thing at a time. If you want to do something properly, you better pay attention. Continuously losing focus on what are we supposed to keep doing endlessly stretches by occupying our time. Time we could be using to relax, play, eat, make money. Sometimes the secret lays in just learning to say ‘No’.

For some people, it is not an option. They are just too kind, too nice, too accommodating, too tolerant to say no. They just go along with what is asked by them. Some are more flexible and some others say ‘no’ to almost anything. You wish you could say no in a polite way without risking sounding arrogant, uncooperative, and rude. Here is a tactic for almost all situations, to make you say ‘no’ the polite, elegant way and tactfully decline.

1. Saying ‘No’ to your boss. Not easy, right? His/her request may be rightful or not, you may or not agree with, but at the end of the day, you might just not want to do that. First of all, you should be careful to not turn the conversation into a power fight. Nobody wants to hear “you are wrong, and I am right”. If he senses that his position, authority is put in the discussion, it will not matter what arguments are you bringing. In his brain, he will shout you off, from the first moment. You both as members of the same team have the same purpose: accomplish something. Who is right, is unimportant. What is the right thing to do is the most important. Start by empathizing with your boss’s request:

  • I totally agree with the point being made. We are a bit late with our deadline. I am just a little concerned if we would be at our best of energies this weekend to perform X task. During the weekend I am afraid members of the team would be trying to coordinate from home, their family environment aspects that would only prolong the tasks. I think that if we have our weekend off, Monday morning we would all come to work refreshed and fully charged to finish x task within the first two hours.
  • Now compare it with this:
    Yes I know we are late with our deadline. But it is not fair to ruin our weekend respective plans. It is not my responsibility as an employee. It is your responsibility as an employer to make sure that everyone has put in their efforts to finish everything within their working hours. On Monday we can continue right where we left.

2. Saying ‘No’ to your colleagues. Somebody is asking for help, and sometimes you have the time and the will to help. But most of the time, these requests and chit-chats that come with them eat your time, stress you out. Their stress is transferred to you because their job is almost done, while your own tasks are no way close to the finish. Saying no is not selfish. It is being fair and respectful to your own limited time you have each day. To colleagues, you could say: I would love to help but I am working on something I can’t interrupt. After you do this sometimes, they will stop asking.

3. Saying ‘No’ to your kids. Spending time with your kids is something you wish you could do more often. And this is why you should try to make time, but sometimes for some reason, this is precisely the time you need to cut. And when that is the case, you need to find a way to not break hearts. While I am washing dishes, my girl calls me: Mommy, come and play. I’ll tell “I can’t right now. I am washing the dishes, and as soon as I am done, I’ll be there”. But how could I be answering universally in any situation, and let her know that I would love to, she is very important to me, and I am doing my best to be there for her? First, ask her why is she/he is asking for you. Can’t he do that on his own? Why, is your presence needed? While letting your child express himself you are showing respect to his needs. You acknowledge them and say: Oh, I would love to try that with you. Let me finish what I am doing right now and we will jump straight to the game. Knowing that you are as enthusiastic as he is, will motivate him to be patient. After you are done, you go and join him. Immerse to what he is doing for around 30 minutes. That amount of time does mean a lot to him. Then if you have something else waiting for you, you say ‘baby, I am right back, let me finish this real quick. ‘The taste’ of you genuinely playing with him before can keep him up for the next hour.

4. Saying ‘No’ to your partner. Some people can’t imagine saying ‘No’ to their partner. We are expected to strive to make time particularly for them. But the truth is, we all need some time for ourselves: have a long bath, go to the hairdresser, sit and have an ice-cream alone. Do not cultivate the habit of telling everything to your partner. He does not need to know where you are every time of the day. You can set up a ‘code’ with yourself and simply say I am having a coffee with a friend. And he does not need to know who this friend is. You can let him know where around are you going to be.

Learn to say ‘No’. Not everyone is worth of your time.

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