Adding No to Your Conversations

Jan 24, 2019

By AMA Staff

It is harder to say no to requests than in the past. Given the hard work being done by colleagues, we can’t help feeling we’re letting down the team by saying no to a member's request for assistance. We worry about how management may feel about a refusal to take on a project and, therefore, may question our worth regardless of the heavy workload we are already carrying.

And even if we would like to take on some assignment, we may just feel too tired, too burned out, to commit to another task.

Even if it is hard to say no, maybe no makes more sense.

In his book Saying Yes to No: Using the Power of No to Create the Bestin Life, Work, and Love, Greg Cootsona examines why no isn’t always wrong, whether in our personal or professional life. Indeed, saying yes rather than no to some things may prevent us from saying yes to things that demand our attention.

Cootsona told us, “By saying yes to no, I’ve discovered keys to a successful life, one not lived under unrelenting pressure.”  "If you say no, do so with conviction," Cootsona adds,  "you want to be clear that you are not playing a game." At the same time, he advises, say no with humanity. “Without humanity,” he told us, “it’s simple negativity.”
To avoid the latter, Cootsona advised that you explain why you can’t say yes to a request. Simultaneously, you may want to recommend someone who might be available to lend a hand. If you can’t do this, you may be one of those people who like to believe that he is irreplaceable. "This can happen in both your work and personal life,” he said.

He gave the example of being asked to head up the sales for Girl Scout cookies. You may love hearing that you have a terrific track record and the community believes that without you, the Girl Scouts will experience financial ruin. Cootsana suggested this reply, “ No, I’m not able to do that this year. I’m finding I want to spend more time with my family, but I can recommend someone who can help.” As Cootsana observed, “This enables you to exercise the right to say no, but it isn’t passing the buck, because you are offering an alternative.”

Cootsana maintains it is a time for change if you find yourself answering yes to these questions: Are you overtaxed? Do you find yourself complaining: “there’s just no time for what I want to do?” Is it difficult for you to say no? Does your work lack health rhythm? Does it incessantly drive your life? Are your friendships and family relationships impoverished?

About The Author

American Management Association is a world leader in professional development, advancing the skills of individuals to drive business success. AMA’s approach to improving performance combines experiential learning—“learning through doing”—with opportunities for ongoing professional growth at every step of one’s career journey. AMA supports the goals of individuals and organizations through a complete range of products and services, including seminars, Webcasts and podcasts, conferences, corporate and government solutions, business books and research.