Many of us have been in a position where our boss, our coworker, a client or customer has asked us to do something that we know is a bad idea or a complete waste of time. More often than not, we bite our tongues. But sometimes you need to say no – when you don’t have enough time to realistically handle your workload or to avoid burnout or resentment.
Follow these tips to say no gracefully:
Start on a positive note. Remember to keep your body language and tone in check, and be supportive of a new idea. Don't be defensive and go for the negative right away. Allow yourself time to mull over what the person has said and see if you can accommodate it in any way.
Learn to say "Yes, and ..." Instead of offering up a "No" right away, go with a "Yes, and." Then, explain how the work could be accomplished and if that means certain elements would have to change or wait in order to complete the project or task.
Offer explanations. This is another time to watch your tone and body language. Explanations shouldn't be excuses, nor should they focus solely on your lack of time or ability to get certain tasks done. Sometimes people make unreasonable requests because they don't have a grasp of the amount of work that goes into certain projects. Help them understand the steps and time involved, and if that's the solution they want, how it would affect the business overall.
Provide alternative solutions. Focus on figuring out the other person's goal versus his course of action. By understanding what he wants to achieve, you may be able to come up with alternatives that are more cost-effective, timely and manageable within your workload but provide the same results. By giving these options, you can also be seen as a valuable resource with a vested interest in either the company you work for or the client you are working with.
End with goodwill. Always try to wrap up a "no" conversation with a positive, and outline what you'll be able to achieve and the next steps or timeline of milestones. If no alternatives are possible, offer to join future discussions or talks -- that will show that you're willing to be a partner in upcoming projects.