Why You Need To Learn To Say No

saying no say no

When we’re at work, we usually want to please people and help out our colleagues as best we can in order to make a good impression. That means that even when helping others starts to have a negative impact on our own work and happiness, it can be difficult to say no.

It might seem awkward at first, but learning why, how and when to say no in the workplace can make all the difference when it comes to experiencing office stress and office serenity.

Why say it

Wanting to help people out is natural and, for the most part, a good thing, but not if it comes at the expense of your own work and happiness. Learning to say no to someone is more about focusing on your own priorities and workload than refusing to help a colleague.

When you are asked to help someone or take on a task, and you simply don’t have time at that precise moment, it is far better to say no than to not perform at your best for fear of offending someone.

Part of being in the workforce is learning to prioritize your workload, and if you have a task of your own that requires your complete attention, then it’s important that you give it just that.

How to say it

Knowing how to say no to someone is probably the most important thing you can learn. Not being able to do something is fine but the way you deliver that information is crucial. Filling an email full of nervous excuses isn’t going to send a good impression, and neither is rudely saying no directly to a colleague’s face.

It’s important to be polite to whoever you’re speaking to, but it’s also important to stand firm on your decision, particularly if you are already feeling nervous and feel you may be convinced to change your mind at the last minute.

An email telling someone that you can’t do something does not need to be long, nor does it need to be filled with reasons, excuses and apologies. Simply tell the person you are addressing that, whilst under normal circumstances, you would be happy to help them with the task at hand, you are unable to do so on this particular occasion. End on a brief apology and sign off as normal. Remain professional, confident and polite.

If you are asked in person to take on a task you are not able to, it can be difficult to say no directly to somebody’s face. Many of us prefer to avoid confrontation and so may find it harder to say what we are really feeling in fear of causing friction.

If you do feel able to say no straight away, that’s great. Simply follow the previous rules of remaining confident and professional. However, if you don’t feel able to tell the person directly, say that you will have to consult your current workload and that you’ll get back to them. This then gives you the opportunity to contact them via email where you may feel calmer about not being able to help them.

When to say it

Knowing when to say no is just as important as knowing why, and the time to say no is at the very beginning. If a colleague asks you to complete a task for them that you know you will not be able to realistically finish without causing detrimental effects to your own work, then you must tell them right away.

Saying no is completely acceptable and your colleagues should understand and appreciate this, but saying yes and then changing your mind at the last minute is not acceptable. Obviously, sometimes life happens and we’re not able to do something we thought we could, but if you know that you are not going to be able to take on a task on behalf of someone else then it’s important to tell them straight away.

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That way they are able to find someone else to ask or work out how they could possibly do it themselves.

Saying no isn’t always a necessity and there are times when you will have no trouble taking on an additional task. However, it’s important to know when to prioritize your own work and happiness, and when to lend a hand to someone else.

Jess Howard writes for Inspiring Interns, which specializes in finding candidates their perfect internship. To browse their graduate jobs London listings, visit their website. For senior roles, see the Inspiring Search page.

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