Soft Skill Tip of the Week - Ability to Say No


You know the feeling. You're swamped at work. You have more stuff on your todo list than time in your day. There's no way you can complete it all. And then, a coworker comes in and asks if you can help them with a problem. "uh...sure. what can I do?" Two hours later, you haven't gotten much done, and you realize your coworker could have figured most of this out by themselves.

If you're like me, you find it hard to say no. You don't want to feel like you're letting someone down. And the next time you ask for help, you want the other person to reciprocate.

Saying 'NO' is a difficult skill to learn. The good news is that you can learn it. Even better news, here are some suggestions on how to do it:

Ways to Improve Your Ability to Say No

1. Communicate Your Priorities

If your boss comes to you with something that they need you to do, let them know what you're currently working on. Then, ask them to help you prioritize that list. If the new thing isn't the most important, your boss will have come to the conclusion on their own that you don't need to be doing the new 'urgent' task.

2. Avoid Email When Saying No

The intent of your email can be taken out of context. Your simple "Sorry, I can't help" email might be taken as a heartless reply. Take the time to tell the person face-to-face or over the phone. You want to make sure they understand why you're saying no.

3. Propose an Alternative

If someone comes to your office and needs your help but you're busy on something else, ask if you can help them in an hour. Or, if someone wants to meet face-to-face for something, propose that you respond via email. This way, you are saying NO now, but yes in the future.

Just remember, when you say YES to somebody now, you are also saying NO to whatever else you'd be doing. And vice versa. Saying NO to somebody means you are saying YES to other important things in your life.

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