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22 Feb

Say no, but do not say maybe


Date: 2012-02-22 11:00 Comments: 0 st

Do you have difficulties saying no?

Are you keen to be of service when someone asks for your help, but later wish you hadn’t been so accommodating when you realize how much you have to do already?

Do you dream of being better at saying no when you should, and with a clear conscience at that?

The bad conscience you get after saying no to someone probably originates in your subconscious thinking that you do not want to be a person who says no, because “you should always help others”.

But if you are a person who feels bad when saying no to someone, I believe you are also the kind of person who only says no for good reason.

You just do not know what your reasons are yet.

No for two reasons

Except saying no when you simply do not want to, the no can be uttered due to two reasons:

  1. It may be the case that you are tired and need a rest, or that you have too much on your plate already and need to be careful in selecting which new commitments to take on. You are completely right to look after yourself. In order to produce and perform anything at all, you need to have a reasonably sized workload. Once you have energy to spare, you will want to say yes; believe me.
  2. You might also say no since you need to prioritize something else. Saying no or yes is equivalent to prioritizing, meaning that by doing so you decide what should be done before something else, all in good order. The only way of knowing what to prioritize (that is, what you should say yes to) is to first be fully aware of where you and/or the business you work in, is heading. All your daily activities are not ends in themselves; you do them for a purpose. They are done in the intention to satisfy a need in you or in your business. All the things you do are in fact intended to be small steps in the right direction. Not until you are certain of what that direction is will you be able to set the right priorities. It might sound strange and more like management-consultant-mumbo-jumbo, but this simply means that you need do sort out what short-term goals and aims you should strive to, and take responsibility to, achieve. Are these perhaps sales-goals, customer-satisfaction-goals, service-level-goals, financial goals, production-quality-goals, “time-it-takes-to-respond-to-emails”-goals, or do you have other aspirations? Think about it and make it explicitly clear to yourself and to whomever you need to say no to what your primary aim is, and hence what the reason you have to say no is. You will not have to give yourself a bad conscience and the person whose request you are declining will understand how and why you have made this priority, and it will all in all be easier to feel that you have made the right decision.


Do this

Try doing this in order to say no with a clear conscience.

  1. Find out what your short-term goals are.
  2. If you cannot think of any, ask your boss for guidance or try figuring out for yourself what you could do to contribute to your company’s progress.
  3. Only you have the complete overview of your particular situation, and hence only you can make the priorities which are right for you. This is why you can from now on regard any request others make as an offer to invest your time in doing something for a few minutes (or perhaps a year), which you can either accept or decline. Even if the person in question does not express his or her request in terms of an offer, you can choose to see it this way.  If you have more than enough to do already and hence need to prioritize one or the other, and you are aware of what your short-term goals are, it will be easier to consider if the offer will contribute to you attaining your objectives or not.
  4. If it will help you further towards your goal than any of the tasks awaiting completion, accept the request.
  5. If they don’t, you can express your thanks and make it clear that although the offer is tempting, you are inclined to decline, since…

Well, since what?

If you can finish the sentence “No, I can’t, since …” it will be much easier to know why you are saying no. It is as simple as this: once you know what you are saying yes to by saying no, your conscience will be cleared. Only then will you know why it would have been wrong to say yes.

Your conscience will be even better off if you, as you decline someone’s request, provide them with a tip or advice which could help the person in question to find assistance elsewhere, so that in the end you will both get what you wanted and needed.

You get a clear conscience by knowing why

If you know why you are saying no, you will say no without feeling bad about it. You will feel in control of your own planning and workday to a greater extent than you do at present.

You are your own master.

How do you do it?

How do you make it possible to say no with a clear conscience? I have here described one way of looking at it, but surely there are many more. Leave a comment to let myself and other know. Share your wisdom!

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