How to say ‘no’

by Barrie Hopson on January 3, 2012 · 1 comment

in Brands,portfolio careers,work/life blend

At this time in the New Year many portfolio workers will be hoping that they will be given opportunities for saying ‘yes’! However, as your career develops it does become an increasing problem and so we are delighted to welcome another guest poster. Jennifer Holloway is  one of the best consultants that I know who can help you develop your personal brand. Over a pre -Xmas drink I persuaded her ( I know what techniques to use) to let us use her thoughts on this topic – and of course she did not say no to me! So – over to Jennifer.

“How can you say “No” (because let’s be honest, we’re British and the direct approach isn’t exactly in our DNA)?

It’s something I often struggle with (although my ex-boss might disagree) but one day I came across a little gem of a blog by Celestine Chua on Zen Habits that offered exactly the practical advice I needed.  So to help you keep your personal brand on the straight and narrow, here’s her seven different ways to say No/Nein/Niet/Non/Bugger Off:

1. “I can’t commit to this as I have other priorities at the moment.”
This lets the person know your plate is full so they should hold off on this as well as future requests. You may also share what you’re working on so the person can understand better.

2. “Now’s not a good time as I’m in the middle of something. How about we reconnect at X time?”
This method is a great way to (temporarily) hold off the request, though by suggesting another time the person doesn’t feel completely blown off.

3. “I’d love to do this, but …”
It’s a gentle way of breaking no to the other party. It’s encouraging as it lets the person know you like the idea (of course, only say this if you do like it).

4. “Let me think about it first and I’ll get back to you.”
This is more like a “Maybe” than a straight out “No” – though if you’re not interested don’t lead them on.  If the person is sincere about the request, they will be more than happy to wait.

5. “This doesn’t meet my needs now but I’ll be sure to keep you in mind.”
This helps the person knows there’s nothing wrong with what they’re offering, but at the same time, by saying you’ll keep them in mind, it signals you are open to future opportunities.

6. “I’m not the best person to help on this. Why don’t you try X?”
If you are being asked for help in something which you (i) can’t contribute much to (ii) don’t have resources to help, let them know they’re looking at the wrong person. If possible, refer them to a lead they can follow-up on so they don’t end up in a dead end.

7. “No, I can’t.”
The simplest and most direct way to say no. We build up too many barriers in our mind to saying no. Don’t think so much about saying no and just say it outright. You’ll be surprised when the reception isn’t half as bad as what you imagined it to be.

My advice: if all else fails, you can always feign illness and do a runner instead!”

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Andrew Horder (@TheBusyFool) January 3, 2012 at 8:13 pm

The only ones I’d recommend of those are numbers 5 and 6 – both give you the opportunity to make it clear what kind of work you really want to be doing, and number 6 has the added benefit of helping out both the person asking and someone else. 2 implies you’re at full capacity – which is fine if you are, but not if you have some time you’d like to fill – with the right work. I do like “I can’t commit …” of number 1, so long as it’s followed with what you do want to be offered.

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