It’s pretty straight forward right? If you are not in agreement with something— an action, a plan, a task, a request, a command, an advance — you simply refuse. Or, do you?
Contrary to popular belief, “No” is a powerful word which we don’t use very often. Humans are social beings and we (most of us) have this inherent need to be liked by those around us. And that means we inherently lean towards nodding in agreement to what the people whose approval we seek say or do.
Personally, we may be more willing to use this word in our lives. We have no problems refusing to do quit smoking when our partner asks us to or investing in crypto when our friends recommend it. We have no problem saying no to our children when they want to play another hour on their X-Box or want another scoop of their favorite ice-cream.
However, it’s an awkward word for us to use in the same capacity and frequency in our professional lives. Let’s face it — we can’t just say no to our boss when they want us to take care of something urgent, or when the CEO comes down to you with an unusual request. But here are some things you can do, no matter who it is you need to negate or refuse.
Soften the blow
Good things come in small packages. But in this case, this short monosyllabic word packs the punch of a 12-gauge to the chest. But you don’t want to do that to the person in front of you, do you? So, soften the blow. Use a few more words instead of a terminal “No”. How about something a little gentle, like “That won’t work” or “I don’t agree”.
Want to go a step further? Explain why? Be willing to share your point of view. Maybe you’ll make them see what’s right, or maybe talking things out loud will make you see the flaw in your perspective and the logic behind theirs. Either way, it helps to talk it over.
Put a positive spin on it
Another thing people hate is general negativity. Even if it’s something right or deserving, the negativity of what’s being said, could prick a nerve in their emotional state and result in adverse reactions.
Instead of saying “No, this is wrong” try saying “How about we do it this way?” Or even better, “Here’s another option”. That way you’re not negating their idea, but rather proposing an alternative. And then you can weigh both options together and come to an amicable conclusion. This brings me to my next point.
Empathy is a strong asset when you are trying to convey something negative to somebody. When you negate somebody, you’re basically making them feel alone and lonely. Nobody likes to feel lonely.
Instead, make it an inclusive dialogue. Go one step further and ask them “Can we do this better?” or “Let’s come up with alternatives to compare.” Show them you’re with them in the discussion and not opposing them. Ultimately, more often than not, both of you want the same end result.
In all the above scenarios, as you may have noticed, you’re paving way for dialogue as opposed to just you telling what’s what and walking away. It’s very important to have an open mind and be willing to listen. As pointed out earlier, during the conversation you may find out that the other perspective actually makes more sense, or that there are many ways to tackle something.
In conclusion, when you want to say no to somebody, be gentle, positive, inclusive, and receptive. Put yourself in their shoes and show empathy. Bear in mind that the tables can turn at any moment. But never, ever, be afraid or hesitant to use the word or voice your thoughts.