By Paul Lawal on
How To Say “No” Without Crossing The Line
Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough ~Josh Billings
Why is saying “NO” so difficult? In my personal and professional relationships, I’ve had difficulty turning people down, even when I had good reasons to do so.
Here’s my reason:
I’m not sure why I felt this way, and why many others do. I, however, believe it has something to do with our beliefs. I was raised in an environment where a positive response means a positive mindset. And where saying, “yes” to everything suggest loyalty, respect and support, without considering your feelings, or the effect it could have on you.
I felt great at first, I made an enormous connection, and my personal and professional network grew. I however got to my limit in no time. I was exhausted and became overcommitted. I didn’t feel fulfilled.
I quickly learned that personal development, fulfilment and productivity supersede social responsibility. If you don’t get it, you may be trapped for life.
Turning opportunities down that aren’t a good fit for me has been more beneficial over the years than I could imagine. It takes a lot of courage to be true to yourself; to admit when you’re not willing, uninterested, or simply want a better offer.
Occasionally when I turn down offers, I get a better offer from the same person. Turning offers down won’t make you [always] lose, contrary to your belief.
I had to learn to be true to myself.
I had fears:
What if they get hurt by my response?
What if I don’t get better offers?
What if I lose the relationship?
Here’s how to say no without crossing the line or breaking the rules. I’ll teach you shortly.
I screen my activities:
“This meeting isn’t right for me; I’m sorry I won’t be present.”
“This job isn’t good for me, sorry, I can’t take it.”
“This fee is too small for me, sorry, I can’t accept it.”
“This relationship is taking my peace away, sorry I’m moving out.”
“I have the whole day scheduled with tasks; I’m sorry I won’t be visiting.”
“I’m on a financial plan; I’m sorry I can’t help right now.”
“There are often many things we feel we should do, that we don’t have to do. Getting to the point where we can tell the difference is a major milestone in the simplification process.” Elaine St. James
Here’s the key:
You need to understand that you’re a limited resource. You can’t be everything to everyone. You can’t be everywhere and you can’t do everything. Hence, you have to choose strategically what to do and where you go.
Get ready for two things when you turn people down:
Get ready to give details. You have to let the requestor know why you can’t accept their offer. Do it politely and with diplomacy. You don’t have to lie, just be honest and make your points clear. With time, you will be known for your sincerity. People will get to trust you, and more importantly, you will be taken seriously.
Get ready for an open discussion. Nobody likes to get “NO” for an answer. Most times, they will press hard on you and give you reasons to reconsider your decisions. Be open as much as you can; trust your instinct, respect your value, and take the side of yourself. Accept their offer if you get convinced, otherwise, stand your ground. And if it’s non-negotiable, make it clear.
Four things you should say no to:
Say “No” to actions that don’t match your vision
Say “No” to things that distract and destroy your time.
Say “No” to things that water down your productivity
Say “No” to things you don’t enjoy
Three ways to say “NO” without crossing the line
Before saying no, explain your constraints.
People feel bad naturally when they’re turned down, even when they make the usual, It’s ok” or “Don’t worry, I understand” statement. The reason is that people making a request may not understand your budget limitations, current workload or competitive pressures. That’s the reason it’s appropriate to give good reasons for turning them down. You can also make an encouraging statement about future requests.
You need to check your datebook and ask for time.
Don’t worry, it’s not against the business practice to review your schedule or converse with other principals before committing to an answer. Don’t respond with a quick yes that you can’t deliver, or a quick no that will ruin a relationship. In all cases, it’s important to commit to a date or time for a final yes or no.
Turn down the offer, not the requestor.
The requestor can get you misunderstood, and this can squash your relationship. Make sure the requestor understands first, how positively you feel about them, even though the requested task cannot be accommodated in your current workload.
“Let today mark a new beginning for you. Permit yourself to say NO without feeling guilty, mean, or selfish. Anybody who gets upset and/or expects you to say YES all of the time doesn’t have your best interest at heart. Always remember: You have a right to say NO without having to explain yourself. Be at peace with your decisions.” — Stephanie Lahart
Let’s hear from you: Turning people down is difficult, I know. What effect has this had on you? What strategy have you adopted to turn down offers and not cross the line?