12 Straightforward Ways to Say "No"
Are you pressed for time right now? Do you think you'll have more time later? We commonly but mistakenly "imagine that we'll be less busy in the future," according to a study on time perceptions by business professors Gal Zauberman of UNC-Chapel Hill and John Lynch, Jr. of Duke University. There are a couple of reasons for this faulty assumption:
"...people underestimate task completion times for tasks stretching out in the future...For example, if the focal task is writing a paper, people ignore how long it has taken them to write papers in the past....[and] they are bad at imagining future competition for their time."
People (that is, you and I) are more apt to agree to future commitments fairly easily, even as we reject similar but more immediate requests. But our schedules stay just as crowded, often causing stress and deflating productivity. Learning to say "no" to certain requests with confidence can give you the time to pursue what's truly important to you.
Some of you may have no problem turning down requests. But for those who find it difficult, here are 12 straightforward ways to say no.
1. Make it clear that “no” isn’t the starting point for negotiation.
2. If you have a momentary lapse in resolve and become engaged in negotiations, take a step back and explain as quickly as possible that your response is indeed "no."
3. Screen your calls. It’s okay to let calls go to voice mail and return them in your leisure. And, you don’t have to return all calls though it’s wise to respond to those with whom you’d like to maintain a relationship. Some may think that not answering every single call is dodging responsibility, but you don’t have an obligation to be available 24/7 (unless you have a service-level agreement that says you do).
4. Develop an email strategy: either reply immediately with a firm “no” or take time to think about all inquiries and craft your response.
5. Before you get involved in any community or professional organization, find out what your responsibilities will be. Demonstrate that you do want to be active by committing to projects that interest you rather than helping with every single activity.
6. Say “yes” to what you love and schedule time in your calendar for these activities, which might be a hike in the mountains, workout at the gym, and cooking class at the community college. Let these scheduled appointments preempt other requests.
7. Don’t get upset with yourself if you agree to something that you later find you don't have time for, or couldn’t muster the courage to turn down; learn from these mistakes.
8. Just say “no” rather than giving details about why you can or can not make a certain event, help with a project, etc. Explanations aren't necessary, unless you have a previous understanding with a close friend or family member.
9. Think about your entire list of obligations before taking on more. A momentary break in your busy schedule may make you think that you have more free time than you actually do; look at all of your calendars (personal, professional, family) before making more commitments.
10. Be consistently straightforward and honest, and people will trust that your “yes” is “yes” and your “no” is “no.”
11. Say “no” to yourself when you really can’t squeeze one more thing into your schedule.
12. Accept “no” yourself. Don’t connive; misrepresent a request; push other people to commit to one of your projects, parties, etc. In this way, you surround yourself with people who have reasonably balanced lives. When your friends and associates realize that it’s okay to say “no” to you, they’ll more readily accept your “no.”
If you resent doing it — stop doing it. Outsource, delegate, phase it out, quit. Do whatever you have to do in order to get the resentment-inducing, energy-soaking tasks, projects, and clients off your plate. They are the biggest time suck there is. Those big resentment gigs slow you down, impede momentum and always seems to 'take forever.'