If you have trouble saying no, here are 12 great ways to avoid getting stuck dong something that you don’t want to do!
1. Defer Until Later
Okay, so this isn’t a great option because you didn’t actually say no, but it’s a start. The problem with giving the classic Magic 8 Ball “ask again later” response is that you’ll have to face the request again later down the line. The positive though is that it gives you time to figure out how you’ll say no for real when asked again. (Read the following tips…)
Ex. “Let me think about it and get back to you.”
2. Ask Why
Getting involved with a project too early on can lead to a lot of wasted time and frustration. Take the time to clarify goals at the beginning to avoid it becoming a time monopolizer. It’s possible that the person asking you for help hasn’t thought through the how and why yet, which means he/she might not really need help at this point. Wait until the project has been clarified before ultimately committing or turning it down.
Ex. “Once you know what you want the end result to look like, check back with me and we can talk about whether I’ll be able to help.”
3. Get Specifics
Getting the gist of a project isn’t good enough if you’re going to commit to it. Find out exactly what’s involved ahead of time to avoid a mismatch of expectations. Otherwise, you may think you’re saying yes to something and then find out that you’ve actually committed to something much more extensive. Once you get the specifics, it’ll be easier to say no to specific elements without looking like a bad friend, loved one, or employee.
Ex. “I’m probably not going to be able to get you the kind of results you’re looking for.”
After getting the details, your first instinct might be to run away from the project. However, the sticking point for you may not be the project in its entirety – it may just be one aspect of it. Instead of struggling to try to say no, consider negotiating the specifics. Perhaps with a longer timeframe, smaller scope, or different deliverables it might be more palatable.
Ex. “I can do that, but not in a week. I’ll need at least three weeks to get that all finished.”
5. Give a Partial No
The partial no is an easier sell than the full no, which is why it’s a great way to get your feet wet when it comes to saying no. Instead of shooting down the request altogether, just get out of the hardest part or the part that makes you the most scared.
Ex. “I can help you launch the online marketing for your business once the website is up and running, but I won’t be able to design the site for you.”
6. Give a Referral
Perhaps the best way to say no is to explain that you’re not the best person for the job. Then refer the person asking to someone who specializes in the exact thing that he/she needs. It’s compassionate and effective, which is a definite win-win. (The only thing to be cautious of is using this too frequently in a professional setting or you may come off looking entirely unqualified to do anything… which is a career limiting move.)
Ex. “I could give it a shot, but it’s not actually my area of expertise. Why don’t you ask _______, he’s great with that kind of thing!”
7. Realign Expectations
Sometimes what someone asks for isn’t actually possible. This creates a sticky situation because you may feel like you have two options – to say yes and then fall short of their expectations, or say no and miss out on the opportunity. The thing that you have to remember is that you actually have a third option – to realign expectations and then say yes to these more reasonable wishes.
Ex. “Your table won’t be as good as new when I’m done refinishing it, but the stain will be a lot more even.”
8. Communicate Concerns
If you’re trying to say no, there’s probably a good reason for it. Communicate these concerns or hesitations upfront to avoid them becoming an issue later on. Your concerns may be enough to make the person asking go elsewhere, which means you’ll get the benefit of saying no without having to actually say no.
Ex. “I’m afraid that if I try to put that report together without any help, I may end up corrupting the data.”
9. Price It Out
Your help isn’t free (or it shouldn’t be). Professionally, you’re compensated with money/benefits and personally you’re compensated with return favors/gifts. When someone asks for something, don’t be afraid to put a value on it. Tying it to something palpable will make the person asking have to decide whether it’s that important to them that they get your help. If it is, great, then you’ll be compensated for your time and hard work, if not, you’ll save yourself the headache of working for free.
Ex. “Sure, I can babysit your kids tonight if you take me to the airport on Saturday morning.”
Ex. “Sure, I can create those testimonial videos for you – my hourly rate is $50.”
10. Request a Stake
This is another form of asking for compensation, but it’s a much more in-depth agreement. When someone asks you for your help, you can ask for a cut of the return. By having a stake in the outcome, you’re more likely to do a better job, which is a win for them and by giving you a stake you can be assured that they really want and/or need your help, which is a win for you.
Ex. “I can help clean out your basement and organize everything for your yard sale for 10% of the profits.”
11. Be Too Busy
This is definitely the easiest way to say no, but it’s also the most annoying. (It’s the dating equivalent of being asked out and telling the person asking that he/she isn’t attractive enough for you to be seen in public together.) On the upside, it’s probably true. On the downside, it’s rude.
Ex. “My calendar is really full right now, so I’m going to have to pass.”
12. Be Honest
This is the hardest thing for most of us to do, but sometimes you just need to be honest when turning something down. Let the person asking know that you just have to say no based on your comfort level or previous experiences. There’s no sense in living your life miserable because you’re afraid to say no.
Ex. “I’m really sorry, but I can’t help this time around – I just feel like I need a little break from organizing these kinds of events right now.”
Ex. “I really like being a part of these projects, but I’ve had some negative experiences in the past and I just want to avoid that kind of stress in the future.”
Hopefully you were able to glean a few good ideas from this list! The next time you get asked for a favor or to do something out of scope at work, try one (or more) of these out. Good luck!
Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below!
Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Business Blogging and Web Copywriting. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and son and enjoys cooking, watching sports, and spending time together as a family. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about current marketing trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!