How to say no without being rude
It has been said at Forbes that leadership is really the art of saying ‘no’, not ‘yes’. It’s easy to say ‘yes’ to things. But if you can say ‘no’ to the right things and actually say ‘yes’ to the right things, you will take your leadership, communication, performance to a whole new level.
There are three problems with this.
- One of the first problems with people who say ‘no’ is that they actually don’t know what to say ‘no’ to – which is another conversation in itself. Knowing your priorities, knowing what’s important and what’s urgent to you is so important that you can actually say ‘no’ in a more definite and assertive way.
- The second problem around saying no is that people don’t want to offend others. You want to be a fun person. You want to stay on good terms. You want to say it with respect. We don’t want to offend other people, it makes us feel uncomfortable. That’s another big problem with saying ‘no’.
- And the third problem with saying ‘no’ is that we don’t know how to say ‘no.’ We don’t know how to communicate it.
One strategy you can use to say ‘no’ is 3 T. It stands for Accept, Task, and Time.
Suppose someone comes up to you and says, “Hey, can we talk about this project?” And you know it won’t take 5 minutes, it will take half an hour.
- What you say to them is you Thank them, first of all, because you’ve got to be respectful. Say, “Hey, thanks so much for coming in. I really appreciate it…” Say it in a genuine way.
- Then you go to Task. And you say, “I’m just working on a really urgent task at the moment. Now, I said ‘urgent.’ The funny thing is that people should respect ‘important,’ but most of the time, they don’t. They actually respect “urgent” more. So you say the word “urgent”.
- And then you move onto Time. “When would be a better time for us to catch up?”
Note: 3 pm is usually a good time to have a conversation, because you’ve done all your thinking, all your strategic time. I leave conversations to after 3pm most of the time.”
So you can say,
“Hey, how does after 3pm sound? Can we chat about it then?”
Or set up a time in the future.
So that’s really a nice, elegant, and respectful ways of saying ’no.’ The 3 T’s. THANK, TASK and TIME.
Another strategy you can use when someone comes and asks you to do something, is saying something like,
“Hey, I don’t know if I’m the right person for that. I appreciate you coming. Why don’t you go and chat with X.”
And then you refer them onto another person.
Another one is:
“Hey, this is a really great idea, but [insert reason].”
The ‘but,’ in a sense, negates what you said. But that’s okay.
“Hey, this is a really great idea, but I’m just working on some things that are pushing me in terms of deadline at the moment. Can we talk about it later?”
So they’re just two other strategies or language grips that you can use to say ‘no’ with.