Manners & Misdemeanors

Just Say It: 16 Ways to Say No

Stop wasting your time by saying 'yes' when you don't actually mean it.

Saying “yes” when you actually mean “no” wastes not just your time but also others’. Following are tips from Top Ten Time Tamers  to help get your schedule—and life—in shape.

1. We say “yes” to others because we want to please them. But when eventually we can’t continue, we let them down and we feel guilty. Both parties suffer. Recognize that a desire to please often prevents us from saying no.

2. Stick to your plan. If you have a written set of goals and strategies, this gives you a reason to stick to your course. (“Thanks, but I already have an investment plan, so you don’t need to send me a newsletter about stocks.”)

3. When someone persists, repeat your position, perhaps in a slightly different way. (“As I already said, our policy is to donate to charities that help children only.”)

4. Make sure you understand exactly what is being asked of you before you respond. Perhaps the task is more time consuming than you thought. On the other hand, it may not take much effort at all.

5. Excel at just a few things, rather than being just average at many. Don’t try to do everything.

6. You have a right to say no. Remember that others may take you for granted and even lose respect for you if you don’t.

7. Be polite, but firm in saying no. You only build false hopes with wishy-washy responses. For instance, the phrase “I’ll try to be there” in response to a party invitation is giving yourself an excuse to avoid a commitment. It doesn’t do anyone any favors.


8. Some experts recommend keeping your answer short. This way, you can say no without feeling the need for a lengthy justification. (“I’m sorry, I’m not available that night.”) On the other hand, others say that giving a longer answer with reasons reinforces your credibility. Let the situation decide.

9. Provide suggestions or alternatives to the person who is asking. (“I can’t do that task today, but how about next week,” or “How about asking John instead?”)

10.  When in doubt, it’s easier to say no now. Then change your mind to a yes later, rather than the other way around.

11. If you receive a call you don’t want, consider hanging up as quickly as possible. The faster you hang up, the faster the telemarketer can proceed to a call where someone is more likely to be interested. Don’t get mad at the person on the phone; this is their job and they probably don’t get paid much for it.

12.  Inform co-workers or subordinates that you generally like to come in at perhaps 8:00 am, and work on your own until 9:30 am. Only then do you accept meetings.

13. When someone asks for a few minutes of your time, respond with “Sure, how about if I come by your office at 2 o’clock this afternoon?” This gives you more control.

14. Give away clerical tasks to others who can handle nonpriority activities.

15. Stop being a slave to communication tools. Do you really need an office phone, a home phone, a cellular phone, pager, fax, e-mail and Internet ICQ technology?


16. Quit organizations that aren’t contributing to your advancement, your network or your fun.

This story was originally published in the June 2008 issue of Town&Country.

About The Author
Louie B. Locsin
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