Discover more from One Productivity
A Better Way to Say No
There’s a way to decline invitations and requests that allows both you and the asker to remember that saying no doesn’t make you a bad person.
It’s called the “positive no.”
According to negotiation professor William Ury, the way most people say no to requests typically creates tension, hurt feelings, and resentment all around.
Think about how you might typically start off declining a request:
“I’m sorry, but I’m not going to be able to..”
You’re starting off with a negative, which triggers the other person’s brain in a defensive direction.
Instead of starting off your no with a negative and thus causing its recipient to shift into defensive mode, Ury recommends offering a “positive no.”
A positive no allows you to convey to the asker (and to yourself) that the reason you’re saying no is not because you’re a bad person, but because you have positive priorities that you’re working on and saying yes to, which don’t allow you the time or bandwidth to take on another commitment.
It’s a way of telling people that you’re not saying no to them, but saying yes to other things that are important in your life.
Here’s your outline for a positive no:
#1 Start with warmth
Show appreciation for the ask. The person wouldn’t be making the request to you if they didn’t think you’re a cool and/or competent dude.
By making the request, they’re showing some deference.
#2 Tell the person what you’re saying yes to right now
This is where the “positive” part of the “positive no” comes in.
Briefly and enthusiastically share your positive priorities with the requester. This could be a project at work, your family, or a community service commitment.
Let the recipient know what you’re saying yes to.
#3 Give your no
Explain that, because you’re saying yes to _____, unfortunately, you can’t do the thing they asked you to do.
Don’t say you’re “sorry” for having to decline; apologies are for when you do something wrong, and not being desirous or able to fulfill a request doesn’t fall into that category.
An “unfortunately” or an “I wish I could” (if that’s sincerely the case) express your regret that it’s not possible for you to do everything in life, without confessing to an offense or failure.
#4 End with warmth
Wish the person well with their endeavor (if you sincerely support it).
If you have a contact in your network that could help the requester, offer to put him or her in touch with that contact.
This isn’t necessary though; well-wishes can suffice.
If you’ve had trouble saying no in the past, try framing your nos as positive nos. You might be surprised by the difference it makes.