What Part Of ‘N-O’ Don’t They Understand?

Learn to decline with finesse

It’s tougher to turn down an offer, an invitation, or an assignment when faced with someone who won’t seem to take “no” for an answer. Sue Johnston, founder and head coach of the consulting firm It’s Understood Communication (www.itsunderstood.com), offers eight ways to use tact when declining.

  1. The Direct “No”: Get right to the point. Example: “No, I can’t help you on that project.”
  2. The Reflecting “No”: Acknowledge the content and feelings of the other person’s request. Example: “I know you’ve been counting on me to help you complete that project, but I am unable to do so.”
  3. The Reasoned “No”: Give a brief, genuine reason for refusing. Example: “No, I can’t help you complete that project. I have two assignments of my own due next month.”
  4. The Broken Record “No”: Utter the same phrase repeat- edly, which is usually necessary when someone is trying to wear you down. Example: “No, I can’t help you complete that project. No, I can’t help you with this event.”
  5. The Pain Now or Pain Later “No”: A kinder way to turn down a request. Example: “I’m not sure how things will shape up with my current workload. So, I’m going to decline your request now, rather than disappoint you later.”
  6. The “No” Sandwich: Acknowledge the requester’s feelings, decline the appeal, and then thank them. “I know this project is really important to you, but I just can’t see a way to help you with it right now. I do appreciate your asking me, though.
  7. The “Yes” If “No”: State the conditions under which you can meet the request. “Yes, I can help you complete that project if you can start it after I turn in my assignments.”
  8. The Sleeping “No”: Remind the requester that you have the choice to accept or decline by asking for thinking time overnight. “I’ll let you know tomorrow, after I’ve had time to think.”
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