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The Subtle Art of Saying ‘No’!

September 25, 2019

In a world as competitive and fast-paced as ours, trying to focus on mental health along with the professional goals can be a real struggle. In such a situation, the entire fiasco around people-pleasing mentality only makes matters worse. As much as you are tempted to say ‘yes’ to every opportunity that knocks on your door, it is imperative to pause and reflect on the importance of ‘No’ in your life.

The issues surrounding this ‘Yes’ mentality aren’t restricted to the subject of mental health only. The professional disadvantages, too, are significant and noteworthy.

       I.          Efficiency:  

Work-ethic in the modern world finds its roots in the industrial age. That was an era where productivity was weighed quantitatively. Quality carried very little importance. Now, times have changed. The nature of our tasks has seen a significant shift from being ‘physically-challenging’ to testing mental abilities.

In such a scenario, the efficiency and qualitative aspects of your work have now ventured into the spotlight. So, you need to make sure that you don’t accept projects beyond the doable quantity, to avoid compromising on quality.

     II.          Perils of multi-tasking:

The myth of efficient multi-tasking is a big-time productivity killer in today’s generation. Moreover, this misconception is also the biggest selling point for the ‘Yes’ mentality.

Contrary to beliefs, the studies conducted regarding the effects conclude that,

“Nothing harms your work-ethic half as much as multi-tasking does.”

So, the next time someone expects you to buy a project based on this myth, you know exactly ‘why’ you shouldn’t fall for it.

Now, the biggest obstacle that awaits us in our way is our inability to say ‘No.’

So, here are a few effective tips.

1.      Respecting their perspective:

People in our workspace come from different walks of life. You have unique perspectives on issues, and you act according to them. In such cases, it is inevitable to have a personal connection to the endeavors we pursue. In a professional setting, the projects often have sentimental value. So, when trying to turn a project down, you need to make sure that you don’t hurt that sentiment. The best way to achieve this is to express your regard for the counter opinions.

For example,

If you are asked to deliver an assignment by an impossibly early deadline and you need to turn it down,

Instead of saying,

“I won’t be able to adhere to the deadline.”

You can choose to rephrase it,

“I understand the urgency of the project, but I won’t be able to adhere to the deadline without compromising on quality.”

2.      ‘Reasons’ seal the deal:

Our minds have a certain defense mechanism when it comes to handling rejections. You won’t find any person who doesn’t flinch at the idea of taking ‘No’ for an answer, neither in the personal nor in your professional space. These defense mechanisms lead to arguments and unnecessary friction.

To avoid such arguments, it is necessary to state your reason behind the denial.

If we take a look at the example above,

“I understand the urgency of the project, but I won’t be able to adhere to the deadline without compromising on quality.

Here, the statement clearly states that ‘Quality concerns’ make the basis of the rejection. This leaves no room for any arguments and also makes some space for healthy negotiation.

3.      Gesture and posture:

As humans, when we emote, our mode of expression isn’t restricted to the choice of words only; rather, our body language makes up a huge part of communication. Hence, to ensure effective communication, we must stay mindful of our gestures and posture.

While conveying your perspective, ensure you have a confident posture, steady voice, minimal hand movement, and eye contact. You may keep a very gentle smile on your face to give a polite flavor to the conversation, but avoid nervous laughs because they make you seem underconfident and unsure about your perspective.

If the conversation is telephonic, ensure a polite tone of voice tone, and attentive posture (to sound firm and professional). No nervous laughs!

So, that is how you say ‘No’ gently yet firmly. Remember, this is not a universal guideline and just the basic skeleton. Customize, as it suits your work environment and the nature of the person you are dealing with.

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