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Learn to say no–and mean it

by on
in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

As much as you want to assert yourself when others try to back you into a corner, you also strive to be nice and accommodating. Many managers err on the side of giving in too often and obliging others when saying no would better serve everyone.

An eagerness to please people can invite trouble. Habitually saying yes brands you a softie--a pushover whom others will surely take advantage of.

The challenge is finding a graceful way to say no. Rehearse these polite but firm responses to the following situations:

A co-worker asks you yet again to do his work.

"As much as I've tried to help you when you've asked in the past, I can't now. I wish I could, but I've got a full plate that's getting more full every day!" Reminding your co-worker that you've helped before puts your refusal this time in perspective. And by mentioning that you expect to get busier in the future, you dissuade your peer from asking again.

An employee bursts into your office to complain while you're doing important work.

"I want to hear what you have to say, but not now. Could you please stop by around 5 today?" Your response implicitly signals to the employee that you don't view complaining as a highpriority activity. Yet by showing interest in talking to the person at a more convenient time, you keep the lines of communication open.

A peer seeks your endorsement of her proposal.

"Whenever I can, I will support you. In this case, I can't." Expressing underlying support softens the blow of saying no to a specific request. You want your colleague to see you as an ally, not an adversary, so promise to consider any future ideas with an open mind.

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