Hung up on saying the word no? You are not alone. The word no has become a bit of a dirty word in the business world. Some see it as the verbal equivalent of hanging up prematurely or shutting the door in someone’s face.
As a business owner, you’re in a unique position. You have the right to veto any action, idea, or decision within your business without offering an explanation or apologizing for your decision. But many business owners and professionals find themselves struggling to say the word no for fear of coming off as aggressive or rude.
We want to clarify that saying no does not make you seem aggressive or rude. It makes you seem assertive, confident, and decisive – traits that are highly valued and respected in business owners.
Saying no earns you more respect
Saying yes more often may earn you more friends, but friends don’t equate to clients, profits, or success. Does saying yes more often earn you respect? A yes man may have many friends, but what the yes man often lacks is healthy respect from others.
When everyone knows you’ll say yes to any request, proposition, or idea, no one has any qualms with overstepping their boundaries and beginning to make decisions for you. They know your response will be “Yes,” even if you’re not fully on board with the idea or request. Even if you don’t have the time, energy, or resources to take it on. Even if you’re completely at odds with the request.
The word no earns you respect in the business world. It shows others that you value your own time and are comfortable making your own decisions – even the tough ones. And as long as you’re doing business with honest, stable people, no one will see your use of the word no as a rude or aggressive tactic.
Using the word no to become more assertive
Sometimes, people confuse the words assertive and aggressive. They have some important differences and can’t be used interchangeably. Here’s a quick review.
Assertive – Disposed to or characterized by bold or confident statements and behavior
Aggressive – Marked by combative readiness; tending toward exhibiting aggression
As you can see from the definitions above, being assertive is valued. Being aggressive is not. Is it possible to say no in such a way that it seems aggressive? Absolutely, and that may be where the misconception that saying ‘no’ is aggressive comes from. However, if you’re saying no in the right way, it won’t be seen as aggressive or forceful.
Saying no without hurting feelings
Blame it on your bandwidth
We’re all human and we all have our limits. If taking on a new request will overload you, say so! No one can read your mind or know what’s already on your plate until you tell them.
“I am so swamped with [tasks] right now that I just wouldn’t have the time and energy to put toward [request]. Thanks for thinking of me, though!”
Put the focus on your duties to others
Sometimes you have to say no to new requests so you can properly handle your existing duties to others, and this is a time when it’s perfectly acceptable to say no.
“[Task] is really my top priority right now, and it takes up a considerable amount of my time. I won’t be able to help you with [Request] right now, as every free moment goes toward [Task].”
Explain your quest to get better at saying no
It may sound odd, but it’s a great way to connect with the person who made a request of you and level with them. Instead of making up an excuse or trying to tiptoe around the issue, simply say no and explain that this is something you’re working on to better yourself professionally.
“Thanks for reaching out – at this time, I’m not interested in doing [request]. I’m actually learning about the benefits of using the word no more often in my professional life to achieve a better work-life balance. I hope you’ll understand. Thanks!”
Short and sweet
If the request came out of nowhere and you don’t anticipate on working with this person in the future, it’s fine to offer a short but still sweet “no.”
“Thanks for thinking of me for this, but I’m going to have to decline at this time.”