Five Powerful Ways to Say “No”

Over the years I’ve worked with talented women from all fields. Lawyers, doctors, office managers, engineers, you name it. But one thing that even the smartest and most hard-working women have in common, is that they don’t know how to say “No.”

Lacking the skills of resistance can be costly, leading you to take on unreasonable workloads. You don’t want to be stuck in the office at 9 p.m. on a Friday night while your friends are out having fun, all because you didn’t know how to say no.

But by following a few simple rules, you can solve this problem.

1. Try the language of distance. “Time won’t permit that task to be completed now” (active voice) or “That task cannot be completed now” (passive voice).

2. You can use the grammar of power, let them know what you think, and remain polite. Try these: “That [say, cursing] is unacceptable behavior.” Or, “Cursing makes people uncomfortable. Please don’t do it when I’m around.” Make sure to avoid the statements in these situations. Don’t make it about yourself!

3. You can control your own schedule with the grammar of power: “Interruptions make it very difficult to concentrate. It would be helpful if you let me know you want to see me, and I’ll call you as soon as I complete this job.” Or, “My efficiency improves when there are no interruptions. Please allow me to get this job completed before we discuss the next one.”

4. Say no powerfully. Make your words count by choosing powerful structures: “Please set the day’s priorities in the morning; that’ll help me do the jobs the way you want them.” Quick and to the point!

5. Set the agenda. “This proposal demands my attention now; let’s plan 15 minutes next Thursday when we can meet.” Or, “To save time, please drop me a note on the topic. That’ll prepare me to discuss the matter when we meet.”

Quick tips
-Replace weak with poewrful grammar
-Prefer action verbs
-Control distance
-Know when to use the passive as the voice of power
-Resist strongly, yet softly

This post was adapted from Chapter 3 of How to Say it For Women.