I find it extremely difficult to say “No”. First of all I’m a Libra and like to keep things in harmony (often at the expense of my own well-being). In business, I tend to have the shiny-object syndrome – you know, where everything looks cool and so I get worried that I may miss an opportunity if I say no. This ends up taking a lot of my time and scatters my focus.
Tell me if this sounds familiar – you’re asked to do something you don’t really want to do or have time for, but you would feel guilty if you said No. Whether it’s a church fundraiser, a committee at your child’s school or participating in a project, it’s important to learn to say No if you don’t want to get overwhelmed, stressed or resentful. It’s about self-protection – people who are able to say No have more free time, energy and feel more in control of their lives.
In your business, where partnerships or teamwork is essential, learning to say No doesn’t mean you become uncooperative. Rather, it is recognizing your limits and being selective in what you choose to do. That you don’t want to do a sloppy job by overwhelming yourself. That you value your time and priorities and aren’t willing to take away from the truly important things in your life. A little selfishness is necessary if you want to stay sane and maintain a balanced life!
So how can you say No diplomatically and without guilt? David Posen, in his “Little Book of Stress Relief” says if you do it properly, you don’t actually have to use the word No.
1. Express your wish to help:
“I’d like to do that for you, but I’m not taking on new projects at the moment.”
2. Give an explanation:
“I have a doctor’s appointment” or “I have another commitment.” You don’t have to get personal.
3. Offer an alternative:
“I won’t be able to do it, but I can show you how to do it.”
4. Find someone else who can do the task:
“I think Sally would be better for the job, and I know she loves to do (those kinds of tasks).”
5. Admit your limitations:
“I don’t have experience in that, so I can’t help you” or “I’m not comfortable with that.”
6. Offer to do it later:
“I can’t help you now, but I can do it next week.”
7. Offer to do a part:
“I’d be happy to do this part for you.”
8. Ask for the priority:
“I’m in the middle of several projects, which one would you like me to set aside to do this?”
9. Give yourself time to think about it:
“Can I get back to you? I’ll have to check my schedule” or “I’ve had a few things come up and need to deal with those first”
However, I find the tenth and most simple way to say No is to smile and say:
“No, but thanks for asking” without launching into the why. People aren’t really interested in your busyness – they’re too busy contending with too much busyness of their own.
So take the time to evaluate and come to terms with your limits: What you’re able to do, what you’re willing to do, and what you want to do. After that, give yourself permission to say No without guilt and find more time and joy to do the things you really want to do.
Elena is founder of a technology PR agency that works with startups to billion-dollar companies. She is passionate about helping marketers and small business owners with practical publicity strategies.
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