Have you ever said “Yes” to work colleagues, friends or family members, when your mind has been screaming at you to say “No”? We do it because we want to be seen as helpful and not rude. But what about you, every time you say yes to someone else you are in fact saying no to yourself. Invariably when we agree to help someone else we end up missing something that is important to us or to those close to us. Have you ever missed a parents evening or school play because you agreed to help someone out, instead of saying no, and it all went wrong, or you just didn’t give yourself enough time?
Yesterday we spoke about distractions of the technological type. If you have not read it you can find it here Focus – 3 ways to help improve it. Today we are going to talk about those human distractions that are often disguised as work colleagues, friends and even family members.
Below are some hints and tips that will help you when saying no without being rude or impolite.
Saying no by being direct & to the point:
The most polite way to say no involves being brief, direct and honest. Don’t leave it open to debate. Tell them why you’re unable to help but keep it simple. For example, say that you’re very busy at the moment and you wouldn’t be able to give their request the attention it deserves.
Refer to someone else:
Another effective technique is to refer them to someone else who can help. Tell them, “I’m not the best person for this right now, but how about so-and-so?” This is far better than just saying no.
Use ‘Yes, but’ statements
If you get interrupted or find yourself in one of those conversations that looks as though it will never end, try using a “Yes but….” statement. Start by demonstrating that you are both interested and understanding of their situation, and finish with a convincing reason that shows why it’s important that you carry on with whatever you were doing before you were interrupted, for example:
“Yes I will look at that, but right now a customer is waiting for me to call them with a quote.”
“I wish I could help right away, but I’m busy and won’t be able to do it till later.”
“I’d love to help, but I have to leave now”
To make “Yes but…” statements work, one part or the other must meet either of the following two criteria:
- Time is limited for reasons outside of your control, and you have no choice but to cut the conversation short
- The person to whom you are talking will gain by leaving you alone.
Regardless of what wording you use when saying no, always follow the statement with decisive action. Don’t wait for the other person to leave or stop talking; take the action required to get yourself back on track. Shake his or her hand and walk away, say goodbye and hang up the telephone, or turn towards your computer and start pounding away on the keyboard.
This is particularly important when you are asked for “a few minutes to discuss an important issue”. You have to be firm and stand your ground when saying no; you can promise to help as soon as you have finished what you are doing, or suggest someone who might be able to provide assistance sooner. But don’t give in unless your boss or someone higher up is doing the asking. Nothing takes only “a few minutes.”
What If they’re Not Okay with Your Answer?
The above tactics are a piece of cake when the person on the other end says ‘okay’ and accepts that you are saying no. But what if they press you to explain more or try to get you to change your mind? It takes a little bit of experience to learn how to handle these situations, but just remember that you don’t have to give them every detail of what you’re doing. If you explain, they’ll just use your explanation to try to wheedle your time out of you. Just tell them that you’re too busy at the moment and leave it at that.
By implementing the above tips and saying no to others when you have to, you will soon be taking control of your time and people will respect you because they will consider you to be both honest and respectful of their time.
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Till Next time
Mike Gardner is The Time Doctor