How to Say No

Saying 'no' is an essential skill in life if you are to be as effective as you can be. Too many people struggle to say 'no', putting everyone else's needs and desires above their own. It's not selfish to say 'no' when you can't give your best to something, or you don't want to do something, it's honest and clear and will ultimately lead to a deeper relationship if used politely and respectfully.

How to Say No

Do you find that you have a hard time saying “no” when something is asked of you? Many people feel like this. When someone asks for their help they have said yes before they have even thought about whether they can help or not.

By the end of this video you will have an understanding of the impact of saying yes all the time, you will feel much more in control and you will be able to say no without upsetting people.

For some of us it’s about our upbringing that leads us to say yes all the time. Many of us are raised in such a manner that we feel we should always be helping others. That we should always be willing to lend a helping hand whenever possible. And many of us are taught that to get ahead in our work life, we should be willing to “do what it takes” and take on additional responsibilities.

You have to work hard to get to the top of your profession. And these things are true to a point. It’s when we always say yes to things that are asked of us that we risk burnout and overcommitting ourselves. So let’s look at how to say no politely and professionally.

Saying Yes all the Time Isn’t a Good Thing

People who do that are called people-pleasers.It’s not bad, of course, to help out when asked to or pitch in when needed. The problem arises when you say yes to everything and you never feel as though you can refuse.

Saying yes to everyone all the time can lead to negative consequences.

One of the worst things that come from saying yes all the time is a growing feeling of resentment towards others. If we think about our school days and your friend who never does his homework asks you yet again for your notes, how does that make you feel?

Or say you are training a new person on your team. You show them how to do something. And then you show them again. And again. After a few months, you realise you are doing a tonne of this person’s work simply because they ask for your help again and again, claiming they didn’t quite get it.

Something else that commonly happens when we say yes all the time is we become fatigued, both mentally and physically. If you have to lose sleep in order to check everything off your to do list and a lot of that is for other people, you’re going to end up getting more and more tired.

I know from experience when I am trying to tackle too much, I have a hard time sleeping because I can’t shut my brain off. I can’t turn it off because I keep thinking about everything I have to take care of, much of it not impacting my own life. This is taxing to say the least.

When we end up doing more than we should for other people, we’re not working on our own lives as much as we should.

We can get to the point of feeling like we aren’t even living our lives because we are paying too much attention and time to things that are important in other people’s lives. This is not a good place to be in at all.

An extreme example of this is someone that is taking care of another person who can’t take care of themselves for one reason or another. Of course, we want to be there for our loved ones when they need our help. That said, when one person has to take care of another for an extended period, it can feel like the person tending doesn’t have their own life any longer.

So we have to learn to be able to say no in order to protect ourselves from not living our life.

One of the best ways to get to a place of how to say no politely and professionally is to establish boundaries. Boundaries are something I learned about later than I would have liked to but once you discover them, it’s a very freeing feeling to establish them in your life.

Boundaries are essentially something you create in order to live the type of life you want to. It’s sort of like a set of guidelines that you have set in your life. From time to time, you share them with others depending on the situation.

Some examples may include working no more than 45 hours in a week at your job, or not staying in an unhealthy relationship. We typically learn to set our boundaries when something happens in our lives that makes us say ‘I don’t want that situation again.” Here are some examples of boundaries:

A friend has a van. People ask them to help them move something. They do at first. But then it gets to a point where they are helping people numerous times a week. Boundaries might be to decide they only would help someone once every two weeks and only at a time that was convenient for them.

Life can feel full with just your day job so prioritising your own work may be an important boundary to set. A boundary might be to limit the number of hours worked per week in your day job to 45. If the number of things on your plate take up more than 45 hours, and they almost always will, prioritise working on what’s important first and foremost.

Now, let’s find out how to say no politely and professionally in order to keep our sanity.

The key to saying no politely and professionally is to frame the “No” in different, positive manners so you’re not just awkwardly staring back at someone and then mumbling a “I can’t do it”.

There’s different ways to say no to various people you interact with in a way that works for you, and still be polite and respectful towards the other person. The key is to focus on positive helpful language, what you can do and re-direct the other person. Providing options in a helpful polite way means that people feel less rejected and you don’t awaken any self esteem issues in their chimp brain. This is a really important thing to understand. You need to ‘bypass the chimp’ - watch our ‘Chimp brain’ video to understand more about this

Here are some examples:

To Your Colleagues

To Your Clients

In Your Personal Life

With a little luck, you’ve learned something about how to say no politely and professionally. Helping others out from time to time is great, it’s nice to know that you can count on others when needed and visa versa. It helps us feel connected and part of something greater than ourselves.

Unfortunately, it can become too easy to say yes to too many requests for help. This can lead to resentment and burnout. When someone asks for your help, take a moment to consider if it’s something you genuinely want to do and can do, or if it’s better to say no politely and professionally. Relaxing is important for our recovery on an ongoing basis. If helping someone else out means that you get zero recovery time this weekend then think very carefully on what the impact of that will be on your own mental well-being and that of those around you. If your excessive tiredness will mean you’re an unpleasant person to work or live with until you get time to rest then it’s probably better to have said no, or suggested a compromise. I have one rule on my not to do list - see our 10 tips for maximum effectiveness video for more guidance on a not to do list - and it’s not to say yes without fully checking the consequences.

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