Say No Without Being Negative

Here’s how to say no without alienating people.

You can’t agree to every request from an employee, a co-worker, or even your boss. But saying no is never simple. Even if you have to deny a request or can’t help someone, you want people to know they can depend on your support and assistance. Here’s how to say no without alienating people:

• Say it clearly. Don’t duck confrontation by saying “Maybe,” or “I’ll see.” State your position in clear language: “No, I can’t do that.’

• Explain your reasons. Employees and colleagues don’t want to feel stonewalled. Explain clearly why you can’t do what they’re asking. For example, specific policies or priorities may make rejection necessary. Maybe you don’t have the skills to do a good job. Clarify the business needs behind your refusal so people are less likely to take it personally.

• Offer options when you can. When you close off one avenue, look for alternatives. For example, you may have to deny a request for time off during your team’s rush period, or turn down a bid for promotion if the employee needs more skills. However, you may be able to offer other days off, or coach the employee to develop those skills. Put some thought into your answer to make it the start of something positive.

— Adapted from Executive Matters

Skill Builders Courageous ConversationsSkill Builders can teach you and your people how to communicate expectations and hold each other accountable in a way that everyone wins. Assertiveness begins with each person suspending judgement and asking reasonable questions. Ask me about our 1-hour “Courageous Conversations” training, that will benefit your whole organization.