If you find it difficult to say NO to colleagues, friends, your boss, or family, you are probably juggling a lot of tasks at the moment!
Since you are busy, I will keep this short: you may want to try the ”YES, AND… ?” approach.
About 40% of my executive clients have confessed a strong dislike for saying NO to boss and peers, while they find it easier to say NO to subordinates. Another 30% systematically try to avoid saying NO to anyone.
This makes for a stunning 70% of executive leaders forcing themselves to take on more than what they can and want, at a great personal cost in terms of stress and fatigue, not to mention the repercussions for their families and general environment.
While the reasons for this can be quite different (desire to please or to be liked, anxiety to prove own capabilities or gain legitimacy, fear of authority, low self esteem, excessive drive, blind optimism, inexperience, task underestimation, false beliefs, need to control, inability to delegate, caring too much, feeling excessively responsible, not trusting others, etc.) the common denominator is that it is very difficult to change the habit and start to switch to say NO instead of YES.
So I have worked with my clients on a different approach.
If YES is the immediate instinctive answer, why block it? Why not channel it? Why not reframing? Why not say, for example YES, I SEE AND LET ME ASK A QUESTION..
Let me explain the concept. There are seven simple steps in this process.
Step 1: DO NOT TRY TO SAY ”NO”
You do not like it, it is not you.
Step 2: SAY ”YES AND”… THEN PAUSE
The pause allows you to become more aware of what caused your instinctive reaction and to clarify your own thoughts: why do you wish to say yes? Is your help really needed or do you jump too quickly to conclusions? Are you sure you have heard the full story?
Step 3: FRAME YOUR YES TO ACKNOWLEDGE
Now that you have given it a second or two, you can probably put your YES in a context (e.g. Yes, I see this is a challenge; Yes, this is an interesting idea; Yes, I recognise the urgency of this; Yes, I see…)
Step 4: ASK QUESTIONS AND CHECK UNDERSTANDING
Once you have validate and acknowledged, your next step is to ask more questions, without assuming that you are the only one with all the answers, and check your assumptions (e.g. Interesting, tell me more; I see you struggle with this, do you already have some thoughts about it? Are you saying that this is is a real crisis and your request takes priority over everything else?)
Step 5: OFFER A ”WE”
Make sure to express the request or the need as a”WE NEED”to avoid locking yourself into taking all the responsibility on yourself (e.g. this is a great ide, what resources do you think we need? Who can help us? I wish I could jump in at once, I have this other priority here, how can we cover all this? Yes, of course it is is in my area, do you have any suggestions for how we can get around adding this to the rest we committed?)
Step 6: OFFER ALTERNATIVES AND CALL FOR JOINT COMMITTMENT
At this point, if it looks like it is really something urgent and important that falls into your area, and you are the only one who can do it, while the other party has no idea, no suggestions, no answers, do continue on the yes line by offering alternatives and mentioning implications or consequences without making them sound as threats (e.g. what do you say if I do this tomorrow, so I finish what I have already promised, or do you need it sooner in which case I will delay the rest?)
Step 7: LEARN TO DO THIS PROCESS FAST AND ACCEPT TO SKIP IT AT TIMES!
There is no need to become pedantic. Smile, ask a few questions, share responsibility as much as possible, to be sure that you are not making yourself too busy, but do not expect perfection all of the time. Give yourself a break. Sometimes you may still decide to say yes to save time.