How to Master the Art of Saying No?

If you are anything like us, you are constantly fielding requests at work. From formal requests to informal asks, there is always something ‘urgent’ that requires your immediate attention. However, it is impossible to attend to every single one of them. But, in a close knit society like a work team, saying No can be a tricky art to master. How do you decide which request to say no to? Which ones to prioritise? And how do you communicate the same without adversely impacting nter-personal relationships?

Let’s take it one step at a time –

Ask questions to truly understand the request

On any given day, you will be drowning in calls and various team conversations. But, to judge the urgency of any given request, it is important to understand it efficiently. Thus, when faced with a request, take time out to ask a host of questions. How much work will e required on your part? How soon does your colleague actually need it done? What are the various aspects of a seemingly straightforward task?

These questions will not only allow you to judge your availability, but provide credibility to your decision. Your team member will feel heard and see that you are taking their request seriously. This will help them understand and better appreciate your decision, whether you decide to accept or decline their request.

Ensure that you double check with them about every aspect of the task. These follow-up questions will allow you to understand the ask in . Sometimes a task can sound bigger than it is, in the first go. Similarly, sometimes a seemingly easy task could actually require more time that you can afford in the moment.

The effective ‘NO’

Having assessed the request inside out, you will find yourself in a position to make the right call. Saying no is not just about decking a request itself. Rather, the delivery and timing are both equally important. An impactful no, delivered at the right time can help save time and effort for both parties involved. Such a ’No’ will not only be well received, but also make your team members respect you more. They will appreciate your candour and respect your decision.

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So, how do you deliver an effective no? The best way is to say no right off the bat to requests that go against the decided regulations or policies, or fall outside your scope of work at large. A popular management strategy known as ‘Stage Gate Reviews’ can come in handy in such a situation. It requires dividing initiatives into distinct phases, and then subject each phase to a ‘go, or no go’ decision. Things that fall under the said category can easily be declined politely with a firm logic backing the decision. For requests that are not feasible, you can explain how you are not the right person for the task. This will be appreciated as they will be able to reach out to the right person for the task. You may also request for an increased deadline, to be able to do the task effectively. The only thing that matters is that you don’t bite off more than you can chew.

An effective ’Yes’

Having said ‘no’ to things that are not feasible, or ones you simply don’t have time for is the first step. Once done, you are left with enough bandwidth to successfully accomplish tasks that will add value to the organisation and your portfolio. A well timed yes will not only allow you to take on tasks that are important, but also make your yes that much more valuable. The secret to such an ‘Yes’ is efficient communication and a proper plan for execution.

They say every well timed ’NO’ makes way for a better planned ‘Yes.’ So, when you do agree to a project, make sure you get all the required details. Start by explaining why you said yes. As in, what do you plan to bring tot the table. Whether it is enriching the project in question, collaborating over something you feel passionate about, or simply being the right person for the job. Follow this by jotting down your plan of action, especially for deliverables with a specific scope. Then discuss the same with the request or, and ensure that you agree on the details. This should include what the requester needs from you, the collaborative efforts required, person responsible for the oversight, and adequate follow-up dates. In a multistep process, you may need to schedule several of those conversations along the way.

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Conclusion

In today’s fast paced, digitally driven world, everyone has too much to do, and too little time. Thus, it is extremely important that you master the art of saying no in a respectful way. And only choose to yes when you are sure of delivering on your end, with a focused plan of attack.

Saying ’no’ shouldn’t come at the cost of inter-personal relationships or even loss of opportunities to collaborate effectively. Rather, your ability to say ‘no’ at the right time should help lend your decisions more credibility. So, the next time you are faced with a request of any kind, make sure you take the due time to make the decision and see it through.

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