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5 tips on how to become better at saying no at work

From 1 to 10: How difficult is it for you to say “no” at work?

No matter if it saying no to be the ones taking notes during the meeting or saying no to an extra task your boss wants to give you despite already having a bunch of overtime piling up. If you are anywhere above 5, you should definitely check out these tips as they can help you help yourself.

Put things into perspective:

Every time you say yes to something, you are also saying no to something else. So before agreeing to do something before even thinking about it, take a minute to make sure you have the whole picture in mind. What are the things you will need to stop doing if you say yes to that specific task?  Can you really stop those other things? What are the implications? Only after this analysis you should make up your mind.

Make some time for yourself:

If one of the reasons you tend to say yes to extra tasks is because you feel bad for the other person if you don’t do him/her the favour, or are unsure if the person will get mad at you then this tactic will help you. Because we can say no in a friendly manner. But sometimes we need some time to think about how to formulate it. So to win time say: “Thank your for thinking about me but I need to check my calendar and task list to make sure I can really de-prioritize other tasks. I will come back to you.”

“What would person X say?”

One tactic that helps is to create a character for yourself. A character that is super self-secure. That knows what he/she wants and is not afraid of saying it out loud (and give that character a name). When you get an extra task think about how that character would react and what that character would say.  Now use this character as encouragement and inspiration to also be able to state what you want and what not.

Think about the worst case scenario:

This sounds very dramatic but actually, once you apply it, you will realize that the worst case scenario never looks that bad (at least in most situations). Think about what would happen if you say no. Probably people wouldn’t be that happy but won’t they get over it? What consequences could you be facing? Are they really that bad? Especially given the fact that you now win time to do things that really matter for your job. If the positives of being able to do your job right exceed the negative consequences of saying “no” to an extra task you have your answer right there.

Be the one who proposes a solution

Who says that you can only say yes or no? Maybe your answer is no but you still can help by providing an idea. For example, if they want you to take notes during the meeting but you don’t want to this time you could propose a rotating system for meeting minutes where everyone will do it once and say that you would gladly do it next time.

We hope these tips help you and encourage you to try to say no more often at work. You will see that once you say no and nothing bad happens (which mostly is the case) you will also start getting better at it.

Let’s get out of our comfort zones!

Picture of Laura Villafuerte

Laura Villafuerte

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