Sent: 24-03-2009 12:21:01
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How to Say No!
This is something completely different. I decided to include it as it relates to an issue that plagues us all from time to time. Ever had the situation of wanting to say no to someone, perhaps a superior, but found it extremely difficult if not impossible? Fear not, help is at hand.
According to Tessa Simpson, a partner in Aquarius International, an Edinburgh-based consultancy designing and delivering training courses and workshops, we all come under pressure to say 'yes' to requests which, even as we are saying it, we know that we are unlikely to be able to deliver, or are really annoyed about having to agree to. As she says, the requests may come from your boss, your peers, your staff, your partner or even your children.
As I know from personal experience, it is often extremely difficult to achieve the right balance between work and home life. Get it wrong and you can find yourself being pulled in all sorts of directions at the same time. Often the end result is that you please no one and in the worst case scenario, disappoint everyone. As Ms Simpson notes, a result of not saying 'no' means you can become overworked, miss unrealistic deadlines, and even become stressed (to say nothing of being distressed by the whole situation), all of which could damage your reputation.
This begs the question why do we say 'yes' when we want to say 'no'?
It could be because we are afraid of saying no, perhaps because we don't want to appear inadequate. I recall being told by a colleague who was asking me to do something and despite my protests that I was already extremely busy, he commented, if you need something done, give it to a busy person because then you know it will get done! I am almost ashamed to say I agreed to his request....
Then again, it may just be that we want to try to please others, or quite simply just feel uncomfortable saying the word 'no'.
In today's marketplace greater demands and expectations are put upon us, budgets are cut and reductions in staff are common trends. So in this atmosphere how can we say 'no' without threatening our job security? According to Ms Simpson you can deflect unreasonable requests, and manage other people's expectations gracefully by using a strategy called ADQ.
The first step is to acknowledge the request. By way of example, if you have been asked to stay late one night when you had something else planned, you could reply by saying something along the lines of: "You'd like me to stay on this evening and ... (do what ever it is)?" This step is very important according to Simpson as it lets the other person know that you've heard what they've asked for.
The second step is to disclose something about your own situation which shows why it is a problem for you to agree to what they are asking. In the example above the next step comment could be something along the lines of: "tonight is my anniversary and I have something special planned (or what ever it is)..." As you're saying this the person making the request will realise why you haven't said 'yes', forcing them to consider other options. What this means is that you have primed them to be in receptive mode when you offer the last part of the message.
The third and final pat of the solution is to ask a question which offers an alternative. Once again using the above example, you could suggest something along the lines of: "How about I come in early tomorrow and have it ready for you first thing?"
According to Simpson, in most cases you will find that, if you have pitched your question realistically, the other person will agree with what you've suggested. If not, you go round the process again until you find a solution you're both happy with.
So the approach is a three-part message, easily remembered by the letters ADQ:
A - acknowledge their request, so they know you've heard them correctly
D - disclose something about your own situation, so they know why you haven't said 'yes'
Q - finally ask a question which leads you towards a mutually-acceptable solution.
I must admit I have tried the approach and found it works well and frankly you never know when you might need something like this.
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