14 May 2009

Is it always rude to say 'No'?

Will you do me a favor? ... May I request you to kindly do this for me? … I know I am troubling you, but will you help me in fixing this problem? … These are few familiar questions/requests that we often come across in our life. And even if we don’t feel like accepting many of these requests, we end up saying “yes, sure”! We are taught as children that it’s bad or rude to say ‘no’ to someone’s request and hence, we often respond saying ‘yes’ even when we don’t have enough time, intention or motivation. How wise is it to agree on something which we don’t want to? By always being agreeable and nice to everyone, we are subjected to ‘work overload’ and ‘anxiety’. We often fail to justify our personal and family commitments due to time mismanagement. Is saying ‘no’ always rude? How should we deal with the unwanted requests without sacrificing our personal and professional goals?
(Photo source)
We all have some personal ambitions and professional goals. We need to manage our time and resources properly in life in order to accomplish our family responsibilities and professional commitments. By agreeing to all the requests, sometimes, we may be risking our performance quality. Saying ‘yes’ to someone else’s request may mean saying ‘no’ to some of our own necessities.

The basic question is: why do we agree to something despite of mentally not prepared for it? What are we feared of? Do we fear of loosing friends or being rude to relatives? At work place, we often refrain from saying ‘no’ to our managers or fellow colleagues because we fear that it will give a wrong impression that we are either incompetent or not-committed to the job. The reason seems valid at the first glance!

People say that saying ‘no’ tactfully is an art. It’s possible to politely refuse someone’s request. The idea is to give an impression that we can manage our time well despite of being helpful. I found some interesting tips for saying 'no' wisely (in the book 'Ten ways to overcome oveload' by Elizabeth Bakken et al.) and I would like to share it with you all.

  • Don't automatically say 'yes': When someone asks you for your time, don't immidiately say 'yes' in response. Take some extra time to think and review your schedule. You should carefully analyze your priorities and give an honest answer about your availability. However, just be sure to follow up with your response.
  • Be honest, direct and firm: Don't say 'yes' when you feel like 'no', and never say 'may be' just to put off saying 'no' until later. Statements like 'I already have plans for this weekend' make your position clear.
  • Be brief: The longer you talk, the more you open yourself to giving in and accepting additional responsibility. Statements like 'I have to move now. Lets meet some other day' are handy in this regard.
  • Use non-verbal language: Avoid sending signals of defensiveness or wavering in your body language, by looking down or bowing your head. Have a relaxed body and confident. However, avoid confrontational postures like finger-pointing.
  • Add a positive spin to 'no': Instead of saying just 'no, I can't do it', add a positive statement to it. Statements like 'I am really interested in doing this project but I would like to help you once you have narrowed down your choices' add a positive spin to 'no'.
  • Find a 'third right answer': Sometimes the best answer is neither 'yes' nor 'no'. Try to come up with some alternative suggestion that can save you from taking some extra unwanted responsibility.

Personally, I often find it difficult to turn-down a request made by friends, colleagues or relatives. However, there are people who believe in being ‘practical’ and don’t mind refusing someone’s request. Many emphasize that learning to say ‘no’ without being rude is one of the most challenging lessons in our life. And I must confess that I have not been able to ‘learn’ this important lesson yet! How about you?

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Sujan said...

Dear dipendra dai
I hope u must be busy & having a best of ure time at this moment. First of all, I would like to salute u for ure dedication towards maintaining this blog, even during ure busy schedule.
The topic "saying no" is very interesting as we used to face this situation in our everyday life. Like u, i too have to learn the art of saying no tactfully. Many times i had come across a situation when i lost my commitment towards my family just because of being unable to say no to the request of my friends. Thanks for sharing the tips of saying no tactfully written by Elizabeth Bakken et al. I hope this tips will help me to master the art of saying no wisely. So the next time if i say no to ure request then don't get surprise........hahaha
Once again thanks for this interesting write-up.

Dilip Acharya on May 15, 2009 at 5:43 PM said...

Very practical post.

I think Saying 'NO' really requires some courage in the beginning, but the 'NO' pronounced tactically will also not hurt the opposite person.

I've, in the past, suffered a lot due to lack of this courage, but those experiences has taught me well to say 'no' in a mild-way now.

I found all the points you have mentioned here, worth pondering.

Prajwol on May 15, 2009 at 8:53 PM said...

I had a friend who used to use "No" blatantly, I thought he was being an ass..but now I realize how often he avoided things he doesn't want or shouldn't need.

Sujan Sharma on May 16, 2009 at 10:46 AM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sujan Sharma on May 16, 2009 at 3:02 PM said...

A very interesting post indeed.Very good tips that will help many of us.

Alok said...

Interesting idea and a good post. also good tips. I like the wide range of topics you write on. keep it up.

Shambhu said...

Birendra Dai,

Its really practical reality.I really cannot say no to anything and generally caught in trouble.I think it is really important to keep this concept in mind.

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