How To Say No When You Want To

Do you know how to say no to a request or offer which you really don’t want to do?

If the answer to that question is no, then I expect that you always have too much to do. And this video and blog is going to help you to change that.

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I’m Andy Smith from Changesmith Coaching, I guide working parents to success at home and in their careers, and in this week’s video and blog I’m going to help you deal with those frustrating situations where you’ve got things planned, and the boss or a colleague, a friend, the Parent-Teacher Association secretary or the vicar comes along and asks you to do something else, or to take on some more work or to attend or lead a meeting at short notice. Basically to ask you to do something that you don’t want to.

Saying no can feel horrible, it feels like we’re letting someone down. Or it means that we have to stand up to the boss - which can be difficult.

But to succeed at work, and at home, you have to balance saying Yes and No. You will not succeed by being a people pleaser, and here’s what you need to learn.

First of all; you have to put yourself first. This is about self. Put yourself first; be a little selfish, build your self-esteem. Remember, saying no does not make you a bad person. I think a lot of the issues that people have with saying go back to childhood - when most of us as children were brought up to believe or were taught that to say no was rude or impolite.

If that’s the case for you, then now is the time to lose that very limiting belief. A belief that hampers your ability to succeed in what you want to do.

So if you find saying no and putting yourself first hard, what can you do?

The next thing to think about is bringing clarity to your life. Be clear about what you want to achieve at work and at home. When you have clearly stated goals for the year in the key areas of your life, break them down into goals, targets and tasks by quarter, by month, by week and by day.

Then comes a little bit of magic. If you’re not already doing this, I promise you - start doing this straight away and it will make your life easier because it makes saying no a lot easier.

Take those goals, targets and tasks and diary time to work on them. Reverse your normal approach to diary management and start six months out working back and just set aside blocks of time each week and each day. Take advantage of the fact that your diary in six months time will probably be fairly clear and block time out, then work back right the way up to tomorrow.

This worked really really well for me for years in a very very busy large PLC here in the UK. I regularly diaried time and meetings with myself and discovered what a powerful tool it is. Here’s what happens… someone comes along and says “Andy, can we meet, we need to talk about Project X? How about next Tuesday at 10 o’clock?” Now, what you always do is to say “let me check my diary.” It is so much easier to be able to say to someone “I’m really sorry, I’ve already got a meeting between 10:00 and 12:00 that day” (assuming you have of course!). They don’t need to know that the meeting is to meet AS - who is of course Andy Smith and that I’ve diaried a meeting with myself. I promise it makes it so much easier for you if you can truthfully say”I’m really sorry I’ve already got something scheduled.” So clarity of goals and regular time blocking will help you.

And finally, some very practical tips to help you say no with confidence. Here are some phrases that work when saying “no”. They can work on their own or you can combine them. If you struggle with saying no, I hope that some of these phrases will help you, take them, play around with them, put them into your own words:

  • No
  • I can’t
  • I don’t want to
  • I’m sorry but I can’t do that today
  • I’m sorry that really doesn’t work for me right now
  • It’s just not a good time for me at the moment
  • I’m working on some other projects at the moment and what that means is that I wouldn’t be able to give your project my full time and attention
  • Thank you for asking I’m really honoured but …
  • Is there some other way that I could support you on this project you see at the moment I could do X but I just don’t have the time to do Y - -

And here’s one for that time when your boss asks you to take on some additional work unexpectedly and you don’t want to do it or can’t take that extra work. So try this or a variant of this “I’d be really happy to take that project on but I’m already working on X Y and Z projects for you; how do you think I should best prioritize all of those things?

And some tips in using those phrases; be direct; be polite, but get to “no” as quickly as you can; don’t lie and above everything, practice saying these things. if you find saying no is hard - practice. You know the scenarios where requests for your time are likely to crop up - so practice saying no. Practice out loud so that you get used to hearing your voice saying no and it will stand you in really good stead and will help you to say no with confidence.

I hope you find this advice helpful. I’ll be posting on my Facebook page , so please visit the page, “like” it and comment on it to join in the dialogue with me. Or you can email me at or just give me a call on 07896 519807.

Until next week Thanks and Goodbye

Andy Smith Changesmith Coaching


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