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The power of a neutral ‘No’

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in Office Politics,Workplace Communication

The fear of damaging a relationship might keep you from saying “no” to your boss or to a co-worker, but turning down someone doesn’t have to come across as combative or reluctant, notes Harvard Business Review writer Holly Weeks.

Here’s how to respond when people push back.

  • Stay on topic. It’s reasonable to share the reason for your refusal, but don’t get sidetracked. “I see my job as balancing valid, but competing, needs. That’s my focus.”
  • Stick with it. If you have a good reason for saying no, stay with it.
  • Be realistic. People hoping to preserve a relationship often want to both say no and have their counterpart be happy.

But the realistic response to hearing no is often anger, unhappiness or concern. If you distort your message, your counterpart may miss the point and you may have to repeat your “no.”

— Adapted from “Say No Without Burning Bridges,” Holly Weeks, Harvard Business Review Blog.

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