This article comes from Entrepreneur.
I get it; telling someone no feels selfish. But when you learn to say it artfully and strategically, everyone wins in the end. It’s all in how you deliver that important, critical word. Consider one of these approaches:
It’s usually easier for someone to hear “No” for a reason, so you might try something like “I appreciate your request. Thank you. Since it comes from you, I’ve given it a lot of thought. As a leader who likes to say yes, I would like to take on everything. But I’ve learned that I have to prioritize in order to be effective for the company. I’m sorry that I have to say no, because I have already committed to x and y, and I need to do the best job possible on those projects.”
Offer to tackle the request at a later date — perhaps at the end of the fiscal year or when your current top-of-mind project is finished. But go this route only if you know you can deliver. If you’re BS-ing, it will burn trust.
Can you alter the request to make it easier? You might say, for example, “If you assign a project manager who can ensure everything stays on time and budget, I’ll be happy to do this.” It’s a good way to test whether the requesting party has skin in the game. Maybe the project isn’t really that important to them.
My client at the tech company ended up finding another candidate who was well-qualified to handle the Brazil project, while recommitting to what she was hired to do. The boss was delighted that she had come up with a solution, and it gave a colleague a terrific career growth opportunity.
The thing about saying no is that it enables you to say yes in a much more collaborative way. We often think people don’t want to hear “No,” but CEOs get frustrated when people accept and then can’t deliver. They generally have more trust in somebody who is assertive — who can either push back or provide a new way to deal with the situation. My client’s boss saw that in her and thought, Wow, she understands the business. In his eyes, she’s not a naysayer — she’s a business strategist.
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