Don’t be afraid to say “no” to requests at work. It shows you have a good sense of judgement and can prioritise
Answer the questions below, to find out if you are being taken advantage of. At work:
- Are you afraid to say “no” to requests?
- Has the office banter crossed the line of being banter and now become rude?
- Have you become reluctant to generate input?
- Are your ideas not being taken seriously?
If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, then you are not getting the respect you deserve at work. Fear not, however, because we can help you change that.
Saying “no” can be difficult. You want to be known as someone with a can-do attitude who is always willing to go the extra mile. You might think saying no is a career-limiting opportunity but in fact it is rather the reverse. Employers like employees who are able to discern which tasks require the answer “yes” and which ones require a “no”. Being able to say “no” at work shows you have a good sense of judgement and can prioritise well.
You need to learn to say no firmly. When you say no in person make sure your body language also says “no”. For example, do not accompany your “no” response with a nervous smile. If people get the impression that they can talk you around, they will try to. Do not give them this opportunity.
Often, you may feel that you will face a put-down if you try to say no to something, but the box above shows you how to deal with that situation.
- Question assertion. For example: “What makes you say that?” Asking questions gives you the time to think of effective responses
- Empathetic assertion. For example: “Your tone seems aggressive. Are you OK?” By finishing your statement with a question, you enable them to realise that their actions towards you are undesirable and allows them the opportunity to rectify this
- Discrepancy assertion. For example: “John. You agreed to stop being sarcastic in the office, but you’re still putting people down. What’s happened?” You should refer to a previous discussion or an implicit agreement between you
- Negative feelings. For example: “John, I’m angry that you think you can carry on like this. When you choose to behave like this I feel our mutual respect is lost. I’d like this to stop, wouldn’t you?” The other party may not be aware that their actions are affecting you, so bring it to their attention
Suzanne Potts is a motivational speaker in assertiveness, who keynote speaks for conferences and corporate events. Conrad Potts is a psychologist and corporate training consultant who has expertise in change management, performance improvement and motivation
● This article is adapted from Assertiveness: How To Be Strong in Every Situation by Conrad and Suzanne Potts (Capstone, £10.99). Available from www.wiley.com