How to say no

In difficult times, managers are often called on to exercise their powers of veto. Saying 'yes' is so much easier - it's certainly so much less confrontationalist and unpleasant. But managers often have to say 'no' - to proposed expenditures, to the call for extra staff, and to new ideas and other proposals from staff. There is a right way to say 'no' and to minimise the rejection or disappointment that may result...

1. Know when to say no.

No is a powerful word. Here's when you might want to use it, suggests motivational writer John Milne:

  • Say No to allow you to define your priorities. Consider international speaker Dr James Dobson. He had to say no to hundreds of speaking invitations that were taking him away from his family.
  • Say No to take control of your time. Control this precious resource by saying a selective, definite no to those meetings and invitations that consume your valuable time but produce little.
  • Say No to maintain integrity. Men and women of integrity have to say no to temptations that threaten their personal or professional beliefs or codes of ethics.
  • Say No if the cost or risk is too high. You might need courage to say no in meetings where ideas involving unacceptable risks or imposing too high a price are presented.
  • Say No to allow you to say Yes. By having the courage to say no to some things, you allow yourself the benefits of saying yes to finer, more productive, more lasting activities and experiences.
  • Say No to provide breathing space. Saying no to an idea or proposal can provide a constructive 'waiting period' for timing or conditions to be more opportune.

‘No can be a gloriously positive word,’ says Milne, ‘as well as a negative retort. And don't forget that there are many circumstances when it's important to remember that No isn't forever!

2. Be courteous in considering a request.

If you want to maintain your dignity and to prevent the discussion from degenerating into a shouting match, remember to be polite, pleasant, and courteous throughout the conversation. As a rule, if you are courteous and polite, most people will copy your behaviour.

3. Listen to the proposal.

People expect their views to be heard and considered. If you refuse to listen, even if you are familiar with the arguments, you'll be asking for trouble. If you ignore what people are saying to you and off-handedly dismiss their request, you will only create animosity.

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