How to be more assertive: the art of saying ‘no’

Doing something you don’t want to do can lead to stress and unhappiness. But social pressure makes it very hard for many of us to simply say ‘no’. Let’s look closer into the art of saying ‘no’. What should you know about it and what is the best way to do it?

The art of saying ‘no’ – what you should know

There is a good chance that you are one of many people who find it hard to say ‘no’.  You may fear the consequences and reactions you will face. But you can overcome this fear by keeping the following in mind.

Value your time and know your priorities

Ask yourself: is this the way I want to spend my time? Know the value of your time and be aware of how you are currently spending it. Do you have the time for another commitment? And if so, is this commitment worth your time?

Do not apologize for saying ‘no’

Try to stay away from apologizing. You have every right to be unapologetic about guarding your time.

Saying ‘no’ to your boss

Many of us try to refrain from saying ‘no’ to our bosses because, well, he or she is our boss. We don’t want to give the impression that we can’t handle the work! And our boss needs us… right?
When you simply have too much on your plate it is actually very powerful to explain why you don’t believe it is wise to take on another task. You may ask your boss to review your task list and re-prioritize if needed. This way, he or she will know that you are serious about your work and that you care about the quality of the work you deliver.

How should you say ‘no’?

♦ Do not respond right away

Unless you already know 100% sure that you do not want to do this, take some time before you respond. Do not respond with a quick ‘okay’ just because this is what you have always done. What you can do at the point is reply that you are not sure and that you want to get back to them.

♦ Make a rational decision

When you want to say ‘no’ but you are nervous about the consequences, ask yourself what would be the result of you saying ‘no’. Would you be banned from the office or hated by your friends forever?
Now check if this belief is reasonable. Are you overreacting? What if your friend or co-worker said ‘no’ in this situation? How would they be treated?
Now ask yourself if you are willing to accept the consequences. If so, nothing is stopping you from saying no.

♦ Dodge the bullet

In some situations, like an office meeting, you may already expect to be asked to do something. You can beat them to the punch by stating you are fully booked and have no room for any new tasks. This way, you avoid having to say no.

♦ Saying ‘no’ or ‘maybe later’ without feeling bad

When you have responded with “I will get back to you” you might still feel obligated to say yes. But don’t. In this situation it’s very easy to politely reject the request. Respond with “I really had to think hard about this, but since I have so many other obligation I’m not able to do it.” You could add that you may be available in the future if you are in fact interested. It shows you care and made an effort but are simply not available right now.

♦ Compliment

If you really like the proposed project or are flattered that you were asked to do this, let them know! This will leave the door open for future opportunities and the person will feel rejected less (or not at all).

♦ Expect resistance and handle it with grace

Now that you have told someone no, be ready for them to respond with resistance. Be aware that people may react surprised and will try to push you into doing it anyway. But they can’t control you. You have decided that you are not doing it – and you are sticking to it. It’s your right.
The best way to respond is to show empathy. Why? If you like the person and feel for them you will maintain your good relationship by doing this. If you do not like the person and think they are a pushy *** you will diffuse the situation by staying calm, collected and nice. Your response could be something like: “I am aware that it’s not a perfect situation, I hope you will find someone to do it quickly.”

Now it’s up to you. Will you put this into practice?

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