Many managers ask, "How can I say no?" What they really mean is, "How can I say no without hurting people or feeling guilty or developing a reputation as a naysayer?" Here are some ideas:
- Give yourself permission. Say to yourself, "It makes sense for me to say no right now. I don't have time to do this task well, and my other work is more important." It really does help.
- Don't exaggerate your fears. Are you really going to get fired if you say no? Probably not.
- Plan ahead and practice. If you know Harry's going to come around asking for "one more little favor," write down what you really want to say—"No, not this time, sorry"—and practice saying it—several times in a row. That way, when Harry doesn't take no for an answer, you'll be prepared to be firm.
- Offer choices. Put the decision in the other person's hands. "I've got five people working overtime now on cleanup. You say this is a rush job. Which is more important?"
- Set limits. Be clear about what you can and can't do. "I'm happy to help, but I really only have five minutes to spare. Is that enough?"
- Be diplomatic. Don't say, "If I have to work with you again, I might strangle you." Say, "I think someone else can help you better than I can."