How To Be Assertive When Saying ‘No’ To Others’ Demands

Assertiveness concept. The most successful person know how to say noThere are times when you face the dilemma of being asked to assist with a task or carry out a project when you simply don’t have the time to do so.

Your response to this request can have a huge impact not only on the time you have available to do your other work, but also on the relationship you have with the person asking.

Is it possible for you to be assertive in these situations and still maintain the relationship and get the tasks completed? Yes, it can be done, and we discuss them here.

First, let’s look at the causes of being submissive in these situations and what we can see as possible solutions:

CausesPossible solutions
You want to be of assistanceThis is a habit and may be taken for granted by others. See things from the perspective of it being your time and break the habit of always being the ‘yes guy’
Need to feel important and be involvedPut your efforts into things that really matter to you and be aware of when you can resist requests
Fear of causing offenceLearn how to say ‘no’ without it sounding aggressive or confrontational, e.g. ‘I can’t do this, but here’s a suggestion for how it can be done’
Not knowing how to say ‘no’Practice and train yourself to say it
Others simply assume you’re going to say ‘yes’Identify situations where you find it hard to say ‘no’ and build the confidence to find another way.

Learning to say no is down to having an assertive mindset. We often see people who are ‘put-upon’ are those who are relatively submissive and don’t stand up for their own rights and needs.

If you find yourself in the position of being asked to carry out a task and need to say no but can’t, adopt these positions and see if they can work for you:

1) Identify those times when it won’t be possible for you to agree to someone else’s demands

This can be quite hard for some, but it’s a mindset that is necessary for you to maintain your own control and self-esteem.
If you’re the kind of person who agrees to do something for someone else and then moans and complains to everyone else about how you don’t have any time, then work on your own assertiveness rather than blaming everyone else for what is essentially your own shortcomings

2) Come up with solutions

Many times, we feel the only solution is to say yes to a request, even though you’re inundated with other things.

In many cases, saying no and finding an alternative might be best for all concerned.

Look at the task and work out with the other person what results they are looking for. See if anyone else can help out with the task. Is the task urgent? Can it wait? Is the task more important than the ones you are currently working on? How will you measure the success of the task?

The answers to these questions will help you decide if someone else can assist or if the task can really wait until you have time.

3) Practice saying no and looking for alternatives

By practicing saying no, you build up your assertiveness muscles and can face these situations with confidence.

But what if it’s your boss who’s always making the requests? Do you find it more difficult if it’s something being requested by a higher authority?

It may not be the right time and place to say no when the request is made. Find a time when it’s appropriate to have a chat with them, outside the time of the request, and ask them for some of their time.

Ask them to discuss what can be done when requests are made, and you don’t have time to complete them. Talk about how these situations can be managed. Bring to their attention that there may be times when you simply can’t get the request done but find it awkward to say ‘no’. Gain their help in these situations and ask what they would like to do when these difficult timing situations occur.

You both want to get the tasks completed but you feel the pressure may be too great sometimes. How would you want to respond under those circumstances?

Being clear on what your position is outside of those clutch moments will help your boss see there might have to be different solutions sought. Their understanding of your dilemma may help them get the results they want without having to impose on you.

Remember, there is always more than one option available to get tasks completed, so if you are able to say ‘no’ at the right time, in the right way, under the right circumstances, it will enable you to grow in your assertiveness while still finding solutions and without impacting on your other roles.

Thanks again

Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Training | Management Blog | Image courtesy of Big Stock Photo

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