How to say no

Meredith was a Human Resources consultant. She was passionate about supporting her clients. But this meant that she often said ‘yes’ to work she had little time to do. She was working long and starting to feel burnt out.

Meredith was taking on some projects to keep her clients happy, even though those projects fell outside her core area of expertise. This meant she was working excessive hours in order to master them. It was time Meredith started saying ‘no’ to these projects. She came to one of my communication skills training sessions. Here are some of the ideas Meredith picked up. You can use the same principles to say no to time-wasting tasks in your job, too.

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Guilt-Free Ways to Say No

Finding it difficult to turn people down? Here’s how to say no when you need to.

The direct no

You may sometimes feel you need to explain why you’re saying no. The problem is, explanations are often heard as excuses. For some people, your excuse is an opportunity to persuade you to say ‘yes’.

A direct approach is often needed. And some ways of saying ‘no’ work better than others. Saying ‘I can’t/won’t’ gets straight to the point but the most likely instant response will be ‘why not?’ Before you know it, you’re in explanation territory again.

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Four ways to say ‘no’

It’s a tiny word, but saying ‘no’ can seem a huge effort. Here’s how to say ‘no’ when you need to.

‘No, not now’

Sometimes you really want to say ‘yes’. You would be happy to help if only there was less on your plate. You really don’t want to miss out on that golden opportunity, if only you could fit it in. Be firm with yourself and honest with others. Let people know when you can accommodate their request, rather than saying ‘no’ outright.

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The power of ‘no’

‘No’ is one of the most powerful words in your vocabulary. Here’s why.

‘No’ prevents overload

If you’re the type of person who can’t say ‘no’, life is probably pretty hectic. What’s more, you’re probably doing a lot for everyone else and not much for you. And the likely result is that you feel stressed and over-stretched.

So remember – it’s simply not possible to do everything. Choose what you can do and then say ‘no’ to everything else. Saying ‘no’ to others means you say ‘yes’ to a stress-free life

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Set limits on unsolicited advice

Fed up with unwanted words of wisdom? Here’s how to handle advice you don’t need to hear.

Some people use advice giving to control you or put you down. Whether it’s the office know-all pointing out your mistakes or a pessimistic co-worker raining on your parade, don’t allow them to continue. There are three steps you need to take when dealing with unwanted advice.

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Don’t let nasty comments get you down

Why do some people get a thrill from putting you down?

The answer is that they have low self-esteem. So don’t let their negativity get you down. These people only hold power over you because you’re uncomfortable about confronting them. Perhaps you’re not 100 per cent sure the remark was a dig. Or maybe you’re torn between wanting to burst into tears or telling them exactly what you think of them.

People who make biting remarks crave an audience. They rely on you listening passively. Don’t do it. Instead, respond assertively. When you challenge them, difficult people lose their hold over you immediately. Here’s how to do this calmly and resourcefully.

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Setting limits with over-talkers

Your time is precious. Here’s how to reclaim it from the timewasters.

Does someone you work with bore you to tears with twenty minute monologues? Frequently interrupt you by stopping by your desk for a quick chat that goes on forever? Being sociable at work is great. But if you resent your time being taken up by over-talkers, these tips might come in handy.

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Case study: How to push back on difficult demands

Dean’s boss is driving him up the wall. Although Dean’s workload is already massive, Cass has handed him yet another ‘urgent’ report to do. How can Dean convince his boss that her demands are unreasonable?

There’s only one thing for it – Dean needs to be assertive. He needs tell his boss there’s an issue so she can understand his position. Here’s how we’d help Dean deal with this problem. You can use the same strategies to negotiate priorities with your boss.

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Case study: How to handle gossip

Although Elaine likes her new job, her coworkers tend to gossip. Elaine frequently feels uncomfortable, but doesn’t know whether to speak up or keep quiet.

People talk about others. But when talk becomes negative or personal it moves from conversation to gossip. As Elaine’s uncomfortable with what’s being said, there’s a good chance the topic of conversation won’t like it either. Here’s how we’d help Elaine deal with this problem. You can use the same strategies to tackle gossip in your workplace.

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