How to Get Better at Saying No

July 11, 2019

Career Advice

One huge part of beating burnout at work is being okay with one word: “No.” But I have to be a “yes person” to succeed in the workplace, right? Not necessarily. Those who guard their time and energy and consistently produce their best work will not only earn the respect of their coworkers but will also succeed greatly throughout their life. So how do you make saying no a little bit easier?

  1. Pause, and take time to think. Don’t automatically jump to a “yes.” Literally ask for time to think about it overnight or for a few hours, or even just take a few breaths before replying. Here are some exact lines you can replicate:
    • “Let me think about that for a moment.”
    • “I have a few more questions I’d need to ask you before I say yes.”
    • “I’ll need to get back to you on whether or not I can commit.”
    • “Let me consult my calendar and my workload first.”
  2. Get face-to-face for the final “no.” People might be more willing to accept a no in person or over the phone than via email. When they hear the sincerity in your voice they may be more understanding. But make sure that you are also willing to stick to your guns during that conversation. If they try to downplay your “no” try saying something like this:
    • “I understand, but it’s a hard no for me at this time.”
    • “I wish I could, but I can’t.”
    • “I’ve already run through all the scenarios in my head and I am confident that I won’t be able to commit.”
  3. Don’t apologize or give too many details. A firm no should be enough. Don’t give people opportunities to find a workaround or judge you for the priorities you are making. Here are some ways to be firm but polite:
    • “Unfortunately, I don’t have the capacity to take that on right now.”
    • “Thank you for thinking of me but it’s just not going to work out this time.”
    • “This sounds like a great opportunity but I have to pass based on my current workload.”
  4. Offer to help but in a different way. If you don’t want to commit but still want to be a part of the project in some way, try one of these responses:
    • “I can’t commit now, but my schedule opens up next month.”
    • “I’m sorry I can’t be a part of that project, but I’m happy to offer feedback at the end if you’re looking for an extra set of eyes.”
    • “I’d love to be considered for something like this in the future but I just don’t have the bandwidth at this time.”

Image via marc falardeau/Flickr.

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About Spectrum Brands Careers

Spectrum Brands is a global $5 Billion Consumer Products company headquartered in Middleton, Wisconsin. While you may not be familiar with the Spectrum Brands name, there is no doubt you will recognize some of our brands.

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