How To Tell People “No”

Business Say No
No is your ally in business.

The ability to tell people “no” is one of the most important, but often one of the most difficult things for entrepreneurs to learn.

Do you ever feel that you have to please everyone? People ask you to do something and you feel the pressure to take action?

It’s common. It’s part of what makes you an entrepreneur. You want to help people to fix problems.

The trouble that many entrepreneurs get into, however, is they get overworked and pulled in too many directions. The ones that are able to figure it out find a balance with their focus and effort. They have figured out how to say know so that when they do help people they succeed and don’t push themselves to where life is not manageable.

Here are some secrets for being able to say “no” when you need to.

Keep The No Simple

Most people understand that when you tell them no that you have a good reason. Where you can get into trouble is when you tell someone no and try to provide more details than are required.

You can keep the reason behind the no simple by saying things like you don’t have enough time in your schedule. You can say that you don’t have the resources. You can say that it’s not in line with the current priorities with the company right now.

If someone asks why, and that will happen, you can get into more detail. Tell them that your plate is pretty full. It’s not that the idea doesn’t seem appealing, but that you already have things on your plate and if you take your focus away you won’t be able to complete what you’re already working on.

Provide Details On How To Get To Yes

Another way to approach the why question is to provide a way for the person to get a yes from you. This might include sharing what your vision is for the company and telling them that if they can align their idea or question with the vision or current priority then they will likely get a yes from you.

That’s often what people are looking for when they ask you to do something. They want direction and perhaps after you do that they won’t need your help anymore and they can complete whatever it is they’re working on without you. That would be good for both you and for them.

You can also let someone know that if you agree to something that you’ll have to give something up. We all only have so much energy in life to give. Some more than others, but for the most part we all have a pretty set amount of energy. If we take on something that usually means that something else will have to be taken away.

If you have that discussion with someone perhaps you can both come to the conclusion that the new item is better than something you’re already working on. Or perhaps you both decide that the new item should be tabled until something else is completed.

Priority Setting: Building Your Ability To Assess Opportunities

The most important part of saying no to people is understanding your own priorities. The second part of that is communicating the priorities to those closest to you.

You have to determine if family is more important than work. Within family you have to decide what is more important. The same is true with work.

Let’s say your goal is to get your business to $1 million in sales this year. Maybe that’s 25% growth from last year. Whatever the numbers, you have a goal.

An employee comes to you with an idea. You tell them about the $1 million dollar goal or vision. You discuss if the idea is in line with achieving the goal. Then you assess the idea against items you’re already implementing to get to your goal.

From there you can make a decision.

And if family is important to you it might limit the number of ideas you can take on at work. Maybe instead of doing five things at work you can only do four because otherwise you’ll be cutting into important family affairs. This way when someone comes to you at work with a great idea you have to assess if it’s better than the four items you already have and if it is not you can say that family is too high of a priority and there is no room for the new idea even if it’s a good one.

Telling people no is not an easy thing to do. We all have an element of making people want to like us. But that can get us into trouble. And you don’t want to go too far the other way and tell everyone no for the sake of saying no. There is a balance to be found and communication is important.

When you understand your priorities and you’re able to communicate them with those close to you it’s generally easier to make decisions and that includes saying no.

Photo credit: Rubén Díaz Alonso via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

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