Saying “no” can be difficult, but trying to be the “yes man or woman” all the time can easily lead to exhaustion and burnout. The good news is, there’s no need to feel guilty when you have to turn down an offer or request. And to make things easier, we’ve got ten guilt-free tips and tricks to help you say that tricky two letter word.
1. Short but sweet
Whether a colleague asks for some help with a project or a close friend needs a favor, there’s no need to over explain your reasoning when you simply can’t take on anymore work.
Instead of explaining yourself with a long, drawn-out explanation of why you can’t do something, and getting into the nitty gritty specifics of your current projects and personal affairs, take a simpler approach. Instead, simply tell them you’re already busy and you can’t take on anything else. Done.
2. Do it quickly
Don’t tell someone you’ll get back to them on whether or not you can help them out, because more often than not, you could be leading them to think your answer will be “yes.”
If you know you can’t take something on, be straightforward and tell the person right away. In most cases, the person isn’t going to forget that they are still waiting on a response from you and you will just have to deliver the bad news at a later date. That time spent waiting on your response could also be used finding someone else to help them out too.
3. Be honest
Perhaps you’re turning down a close friend or boss, in which case you might want to provide a little more context as to why you have to decline their request. In these instances, honesty is the best policy. Briefly share some of your current projects or why you can’t help them out, and they’ll understand (usually).
4. Propose other ways to help
You don’t always have to give a hard “no.” And of course, if there’s something you can do to help out, you should. One way to alleviate any guilt and offer a helping hand can be by sending over other forms of help like relevant articles, potential contacts, project templates and more, depending on the specific request.
5. Be polite and courteous
While it’s important to be firm in your response so a person is aware you won’t be able to help them out at the given moment, you should do so with courtesy. A good response might be something along the lines of, “I’m sorry, I can’t right now but I will let you know if I free up later in the week.” If you end up having the free time, great. If not, that’s OK too.
6. Be prepared
Someone might come up to you at any time to ask for a favor. And to thoroughly assess whether or not you’ll be able to help this person out, understand your own personal workload.
In addition to productivity and organizational purposes, it’s important to always be organized and know what your schedule entails so you can be prepared for scenarios like these. One of the best ways to do this is by maintaining a calendar and planning your work a week ahead of time.
For example, it could be helpful to sit down on Sundays and write out everything you have to do for the week. Then, if the time does come where someone approaches you for a favor, you’ll know exactly whether or not you can take on the extra task and the reason why.
7. Remember it’s not your fault
Sometimes people don’t always respond appropriately after their request is declined. And if you find yourself in a situation where someone is upset or rude after your “no,” simply remember it’s not your fault.
You can’t do everything and for the most part, you don’t have a responsibility to anyone else other than yourself and your work. If you’ve been polite, courteous and straightforward, just remember it’s their own problem and not yours.
8. Top tip for Saying ‘No’ – Repeat yourself
Even after you’ve said “no” once, a person might ask you again and again later on, in hopes of a different response.
To avoid this situation be as clear and politely assertive as possible, but be prepared that you might have repeat yourself. If so, in your second or third response, politely include the fact that you’ve already told them “no.”
A good response might be something like, “I’m sorry, as I mentioned before, I can’t help you out right now but I will let you know if my schedule clears up in the future.” Be sure to let them know that you will be the one notifying them if you can help, and not the other way around.