Seven Ways to Say, No!

A common remedy for improving your time management is to develop the ability of saying, "NO." Since it is easier to recommend than to do, here are some tips on how to do it.

1. Start with your own attitude. What is your self perception when you say, "NO?" Do you see yourself as a slacker? What about the perception of others, are you concerned about what others think of you? Are their opinions influenced by your refusal and does it really matter? Be truthful in your answers and your decision. We are forced to say, "NO" when we become overwhelmed by work, stress, or when a loved one delivers an ultimatum. Why not do the same when you're managing for more success?

2. Once you have made your decision to say, "NO" more often, your commitment is now a matter of discipline. Self-discipline is not a dirty word when we recall savoring the joy resulting from just a little improvement. Just practice all the techniques you've used successfully in the past. It's only natural for others to point to those who are the most vocal which is not same as selecting the most competent. Resist and recognize ego stroking for what it is.

3. Replace the task refused with something better. You can contribute a lot without being put on a committee or doing every task requested of you. Counter with, "Do you want me to forsake doing (one of your more meaningful contributions)?" Or, defer to other, more competent, persons.

4. Calculate the risks of saying, "NO." Test the requester's reaction by delaying your final decision on your refusal. Test the system by conducting an informal survey with a control 'Yes' group compared with an experimental 'No' group and assess the consequences.

5. Say, "NO" and duck which is a paraphrase of the, "Do It and Duck" strategy followed by some bureaucrats. This, of course depends on the situation: (a) the stakes are not high, (b) you've noted few results when doing previous tasks, or (c) you're feeling frustrated with repeated and insincere requests.

6. Ask yourself, "What's the worst thing that can happen to you or to others?" This could include the follow-up to the ducking method suggested above. You can always pretend not to hear (a common technique with seniors.)

7. There's always the escape hatch, "I'll consider (or I may be in a different position) AFTER I complete Project X." Be honest by ensuring your inner thoughts are honest. Appear to be honest (recall the survey method in item 4 above) by checking your usage frequency.

About The Author

Gerry McRae has taught time management techniques in his university courses and at several police colleges. If you're ready for the HOW stuff visit his website at

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