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3 better ways to say ‘No’

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in Career Management,Workplace Communication

Being asked to lend a hand on a project is usually an honor. After all, your skill or knowledge is being recognized. That said, if you’re swamped, you need to decline. Unfortunately, you run the risk of being labeled a bad teammate if you do.

Instead of blurting out “No way!” or “I’m too busy!” try these statements:

“I am working on [project], so I won’t be able to work on that until [date].” This lets you offer your help, without overcommitting. It’s up to the other person to decide if that timeline will work; or in the case of your boss, if the new project is a higher priority than the one you are working on.

Just be prepared to tackle the task when your time does free up. You shouldn’t bluff, hoping the other person will move on to someone else.

“Let me send you some resources that may help.” If people regularly come to you with questions or for feedback about a specific topic, and it’s eating too much of your time, share information with them. Say, “[Resource] can help you with that. I’ll send you a link” or “You can make a copy of this binder; I reference it often and it saves me so much time.”

“I’m not experienced with that.” If you have time, it may be worth it to learn a skill or gain some knowledge so that you can work on the project. If that’s not an option, be direct and explain that while the project sounds great, you just don’t have the time to get up to speed.

You could also recommend a colleague who excels at that particular skill, but make sure you give that person an out, too. Say something like “Kim is experienced in that, but I am not sure what her workload is like right now. You might see if she has the time to pitch in.” It’s always a good idea to let people know you recommended them and prepare them also to say “No.”

— Adapted from “3 Better Ways to Turn Down a New Project (That Don’t Involve Saying ‘No’),” Sara McCord, The Muse, www.themuse.com.

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