Three practical ways to say “No”

Juggling family and work – something’s got to give. All the work-life balance blogs, books, and articles say that you should learn to say no, but rarely do people talk about how to do so well so that it doesn’t leave you feeling like you’re the bad guy or leaving people in the lurch. Here are some ideas – applicable to work AND home.

1. OFFER AN ALTERNATIVE. “No, but let’s do this other thing instead that will give us the same or similar result.” Often there is an alternative approach than my doing the specific thing I’m being asked to do. Can I do it differently than how I’m being asked that is more efficient? Or do I need to do it at all – are we just going through me because it’s always been that way? If I don’t need to do it, then what can happen instead? The trick to this is concentrating not just on the task you’re being asked to do, but stepping back and thinking about what youre collectively trying to accomplish in which your task is a part: is there a way to meet the objective that doesn’t require the task being asked, or at the level of involvement that is being asked?

2. PUT IT OFF A BIT. “No, I can’t right now. We should definitely get to this, but let’s connect tomorrow/next week/etc on this since I’m focusing on something else right this minute.” If it’s not urgent (truly urgent, which you’ll find few things actually are!) then you might find it resolves on its own or other things happen to get it to the next step if given some time.

3. HELP SOMEONE ELSE DO IT THEMSELVES. “No, I can’t do it myself, but I can definitely help you get to the finish line on this.” This one is my favorites because it’s a win-win. In order for this to work, you’ve got to have someone who doesn’t know how to do it and is willing to try. So many of my junior and mid-level staff are willing to try anything. GREAT! Let’s do it. I always give the baby a bath at night, but if my husband does it with me a few times, we can trade off and I can get some much needed down time. Is it going to happen exactly as you would do it? Probably not. Does this require up front investment in your time? Yes! But the ROI of saying no this way is typically realized fairly quickly.

Maybe there are other ways to say no in an effective way?

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