The Power of Saying ‘No’ at the Workplace

Posted October 22, 2020 by in Career
how to say no

‘No’ – looks like the simplest of words in the English language, doesn’t it? But who knew that this simplest of words could be extremely difficult to actually use!

“Yes, definitely.”

“Yes, I’ll finish this.”

“Yes, I’ll cover your shift.”

“Yes, you’re right.”

How many times have you caught yourself saying yes even though you really, really wanted to say no? That makes all of us. Our need to please others takes over our mental health almost always. We need to normalize saying “No”. We need to make “No’ an acceptable answer.

Here are 5 ways you could say “No” without sounding bad.

saying no at work
  1. Understand the Request

Before you bring the sharp ‘No’ on your tongue, understand the request that’s been made to you and who’s making it. There are times when you wouldn’t do a certain thing for one person, but you’d do it for the other.

Understand the situation, weigh in the pros and cons of saying No and don’t say it until you’re sure that’s the only way out.

For instance, if a client makes a request to the Product Manager of a firm, the latter needs to evaluate the situation, discuss with the team and then make an informed decision.

  1. Be Straightforward

If you realize that you neither have the desire nor the bandwidth to consent to a request, you need to turn it down and be honest about it. Do not beat around the bush and offer false reasons and justifications. Just be honest about it. It might be difficult, but it will save you from the subsequent lies and embarrassment.

For example, if your boss asks you to put in some extra hours of work on Friday but you’ve got to attend a party, politely refuse the request and explain how you have other plans you can’t put into jeopardy.

  1. No Extremes

The manner in which you say No is very important. You need to try your best to not sound rude or mean and let the other person feel bad about asking you for help. Nor do you have to be apologetic about saying No and give them a chance to emotionally blackmail you.

Be kind, but firm. Choose your words carefully and match your body language with them. Look confident so you don’t look like you might change your mind at a little persuasion; and casual, so it’s not apparent that it took you a huge amount of effort to refuse.

  1. Understand

Finally, you’ve managed to say No in the best way possible. Now what?

The person you said it might not take it in the best way possible. Be ready for them to be angry, upset, trying to persuade you, blackmail you, guilt-trap you or even be disrespectful. Understand that they’re upset, and try to calm them down.

If you feel the need to, try explaining to them why you said No. When people know the ‘Why’, they tend to be more forgiving. Do not ruin your relationship because of one ‘No.’

For example, in an interview, after a careful evaluation of your resume and cover letter, your potential employer makes a request that you decline, they might feel disrespected and may put you on hold or decide to not offer you the job altogether. In this case, be thankful, because you just saved yourself from a job where you’d have had to deal with a bad boss everyday!

  1. Finally, practice!

Practice saying No. Just say it out loud whenever you’re alone. Sounds stupid, doesn’t it? It might. But repeating it will make it sound regular and you will not feel weird when you actually feel the need to say it to someone.

When you say No, you relieve yourself of unwanted distress and pressure. Take on only as much work as you can.

Remember, you might choose to say Yes today and suffer, but at some point, the need to say No will be higher than your wish. If you’re worried about “looking bad”, it’s inevitable.

Wouldn’t you rather just say No and enjoy a stress-free today?