My family, the U. S. Navy, my platform, working on a Masters of Library and Information Science, and self-care. I have a wonderful, full life. But in order to get it all done, I must be mindful of my priorities. Many people want to place demands on my time so I have numerous opportunities to cultivate my positive no.
For a long time, whenever someone asked for my time they got some. But if what the person wanted me to do did not fit with my life plan two things happened:
- The person got an inferior job
- I resented the time it took
Often the results did not benefit either one of us. The person would have been better off if I had said, “no.”
Yet surely his priorities were as important to him as mine were to me. So he might interpret my refusal of assistance as a personal rebuff. Too many of those can damage a relationship. I had to learn to say “no” in a way that felt like “yes.”
Some requests do not warrant a response. They get the equivalent of a pocket veto, no reply. An assistant could politely decline but for now I have to let them go.
How to Say No in a Positive Way
When dealing with someone I know or with whom I am building a relationship, a response is required. As such, even if I cannot commit my time, I look for another way to help. Here is my process:
- Acknowledge the importance of what the person is asking. Almost everyone can understand being busy, but recognizing the significance of another’s priorities creates a mutual affinity.
- Briefly explain the conflict. Giving someone insight into my life will improve our relationship. If I think the person will be offended by my priorities, I take a moment to reconsider. Maybe what he needs me to do is more important than what I have going on.
- Offer an alternative to my help. Can I introduce the person to someone who can handle the matter, perhaps better than me? Is there some part of the task I can do with a minimal time outlay, and immediately so that it does not clog my mental to do list?
- No matter what, thank the person for asking and wish him luck. I learned this from working in real estate. The client that thanked me for telling him about an investment even though he turned it down got greater priority the next time I had something good. Most people find asking for help difficult, so when someone reaches out to me it's a compliment.
Not all my friends are sensitive to being turned down. So sometimes a simple no will suffice. Not long ago a colleague told me I have a way of telling people difficult things that makes them easier to hear. As someone who hates being told “no” I can think of no higher praise.
How do you say no without alienating people?
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