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Sometimes, the answer is a simple “No.” Warren Buffet tells us, “You’ve gotta keep control of your time, and you can’t unless you say no. You can’t let people set your agenda in life.” Whether it is an unrealistic deadline, an unreasonable workload, or impossible expectations, you can protect yourself and your team by pushing back against certain requests. 

 

However, saying no is often challenging when trying to manage customer expectations. You do not want to appear unhelpful to a client or selfish to a colleague. And your boss? They may not tolerate being told no. So, what do you do? 

 

You can learn to rephrase your no. There are ways you can decline a request and restructure the conversation without ever saying “No.” 

 

Here are a couple “No” alternatives you can try:

 

“Have you considered an alternative?” 

There may be a smarter, more affordable, or less complicated approach for you or your team. If you have an idea, share it. This phrase is a great alternative to saying no. You could also say no by making your solution seem like the other person’s idea. You could take the approach of, “I think [the way you did something] worked great. Maybe we could try a similar approach here.”  

 

“We have a lot going on right now. To serve you better, could we, maybe, hold off on this for a while?” 

The person making the request might not be aware of your current workload or the feasibility of it. By saying this, you are acknowledging your workload and managing expectations. If your boss or the client wants this new project, you may need to push something else to the back burner to get it done. You should always be clear, so other people know you have work to do. 

 

“Could [another team or person] could help us with this?” 

Do not be afraid to ask for help. If you think of someone who might have the know-how and the bandwidth to help with the project, pull them in. The other person or group of people may help you accomplish the task better, so see if you can share the load.

 

“My team has a lot going on. Can we discuss some options to accommodate what you need?” 

This is helpful when you are communicating with your boss. Many people take on more than they can handle at work because they fear the consequences. Yet, this approach can backfire. It is much better to raise your concerns and be honest about what you can handle and where you might need help. 

 

“We have a plan, and expect to deliver by [insert date].”

This is another way to say no without really saying the words. You show that you want to deliver but may not be able to meet the expected deadline. When you can outline a plan, you can show concrete tasks you are working on, and others are less likely to keep adding to their expectations. They will know what you already have in the pipeline. 

 

What you should remember is that it is okay to say no sometimes. The key is learning how to say no the right way. By doing this, it allows you to exceed expectations while keeping your sanity–and thrive.

 

 

What does it take to be a great communicator? Find out here

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