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Round table: How to say no like a pro!


Saying "no" - why do we struggle with it? Whether it's your family. Your boss. Your friend. Your neighbor. Your favorite charity. There are times when people don't realize what they're asking of you or how full your plate is or worse, they overstep their boundaries. How do you handle it and how do you say "no" with grace? Imma gonna tell you and trust me when I say, I just learned this upon entering my 30's. As a 20-something and an avid people-pleaser...I really struggled with this only to become frustrated and resentful. Then I figured out the power of saying "no" in a professional, courteous way and life got a whole lot easier.

Sometimes you feel a certain sense of loyalty to someone which propels you into saying "yes" every time they ask a favor of you. An example of this might be your parents requesting your help to bring the lawn furniture out every season. Or move something heavy out of storage. As their kid, you want to help them and you don't want to disappoint but at the end of the day - you have an entire group of friends waiting for you to go day-drinking. I mean, these people need you!

What about the boss that asks you to manage yet another project and your inbox is close to spontaneous combustion? Do you politely decline and risk the bad marks on your next review? I mean, how many late nights can you pull a month? It's called work/life balance, people!

How about that friend who NEVER makes the effort to come to your house? Just because she has a kid, there's some unwritten law that requires you to drive to her house in suburbia every time she wants to catch up because she "misses you." Because she's a mom she gets a hall pass for eternity? I don't think so.

And let us not forget the needy client that continues to ask for more while you work for free because you've well blown past your initial budget? I mean, you did get a college degree to work for pennies, right? I think they call that an internship.

These are just four examples that I, obviously, can relate to. And with some practice...saying "no" became a lot easier. The bottom line: everyone needs to realize you have a life. You have things you would like to do with your free time whether that's tackling a project at home, working out or just sitting in your sweats watching reruns of Sex and the City. It's your prerogative.

Here are four ways you can say "no" without falling from grace:
  1. Gee, Mom/Dad - I know how heavy that lawn furniture is. How about this - today I really want to go to this yoga class with Shawn but next weekend I'm free and would be happy to bring baby brother out to help.
  2. Hey Boss - I feel like this project is out of my skill set and I know it's an important one. I know someone who could really put out some positive work and is better suited for this. Can I pull Jane into this conversation? I don't want to give you sub-par work because I am working on "x".
  3. My dear BF - How is that little nugget? Is he crawling yet? Whatdya say we rig your hubs into watching him for an hour and catch up on some girl time? I'll meet you half way at the Starbucks located at xyz.
  4. Dear Fortune 100 client - I am so flattered that you want more work out of my firm. Amazing that we've come so far. How about you and I get together for lunch and review our original budget so that we can tack on more work and adjust the compensation accordingly? This is my favorite kind of project to dig into!
Sounds all too easy, right? Hey, I am pretty straight forward but I am also in sales so I've learned the fine art of BS'ing. Practice makes perfect. Find a suitable style that works with your personality. 

Sometimes saying "no" can be liberating and sometimes you really don't need some grandiose excuse. Sometimes you just don't want to go to that shower or party and guess what? That's OK. 

Life is short - LIVE IT!