How To Say No To Requests (Without Damaging Your Relationships): 8 Tips

how to say no

Are you struggling to say no to your partner, friends, and folks?
How to say no to requests without guilt, conflict, or regret or damaging your relationships?

“Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter” — Greg McKeown

Turning down a request or invitation can be extremely difficult. Ultimately, you are terrified you won’t be liked, and with every cell in your being screaming at you to say no, you just cannot muster those two tiny letters.

Despite having trained on this for a decade, I am equally guilty of giving away my ‘yes’ too quickly. I have sat through many talks, social gatherings and networking events, wondering what on earth compelled me to agree to it.

saying no without damaging relationships

At the time of the invitation, it seems like a good idea. However, once I was there, it filled me with remorse. I could rattle off at least five other things I could do that would serve me better. So knowing this, why did I still say yes?

If you can relate to this battle with saying no,

Here Are Some Tools You Can Use To Say No To Requests Without Conflict, Guilt Or Regret:

1. Manage Expectations.

“Poor planning on your part does not necessitate an emergency on mine.” — Bob Carter

When someone asks you to do something, do you hear yourself saying, ‘No problem, I’ll get it done tomorrow’. This is despite the fact that you are barely coping with your current commitments. It’s human nature to please others, and there is a fear of damaging your reputation if you say no.

A Mathematical Formula For Happiness: Reality Divided By Expectations

Shift your default reaction of over-committing to it the next day and instead ask:

‘What is the latest deadline you need this? My calendar is swamped until Tuesday. Would Wednesday morning work for you?’.

You will find that they will probably agree to it unless there is a genuine urgent need for it sooner. But again, let that be the exception and not the norm. You don’t want to compromise quality for quantity in your eagerness to please others. You are remembered for your latest contribution, not something you did well a few weeks ago.

Related: How to Be More Charismatic: 3 Tips

2. What If It’s My Boss?

“One key to successful relationships is learning to say no without guilt so that you can say yes without resentment.” Bill Crawford

It’s all well to say no to your colleagues, but what happens when your boss or someone is more senior than you who makes the request?

You can respond by saying, ‘here are the key priorities I am working on right now. If I take this on, then something needs to give. Where would you prefer I focus — what is most important for you?’.

In this way, there is zero guilt. You have expressed your situation clearly, and now the ball is in their court on how you should proceed. You are being responsible to ensure top quality and delivery. After all, your reputation is on the line if you don’t deliver to a high standard.

Related: 9 Ways To Develop More Conscientious Interactions At Workplace

3. Apply The Yes Sandwich.

“Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough.” Josh Billings

Often, it is not the fact that you said no, but perhaps the way you said it.

My co-author Nadia Bilchik and I published ‘Own Your Space: The Toolkit for the Working Woman’ in 2016, where we spoke about the ‘Yes Sandwich’. This approach allows you to turn down a request in a way that softens the blow and helps the other person not take your ‘no’ so personally.

It has three layers:

Layer 1:

Begin by positively acknowledging the other person’s intent.

Layer 2:

This is where you graciously say no.

Layer 3:

Offer an alternative (this is optional)

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