The Art of Saying No

Nov 20, 2020

By Jasmina Muller

When we speak of empowerment, it’s often coming from a place of disadvantage. Communities of women and children are considered powerless based on their background or upbringing.

But, there is another aspect of empowerment that many of us have had to learn in life — the art of saying no. This is a common mistake women make in their personal lives and workplace.

Women are natural caregivers, often sacrificing their own time, health, food and money to better others, especially their children. There are very few mothers, if any, who would not give their child their last meal, the shirt off their back to keep them warm and their money so their kids can go to a good school, or experience something new.

This desire to please also abounds in the workplace. Often, women are too nervous or lack the confidence to say no. They feel it may upset their colleagues, superiors or be detrimental to their opportunity for promotions.

Being a “YesWoman” is not always a good thing. It can lead to being overwhelmed, feeling behind the curve and a negative mental state. Saying yes to too many projects may cause your work to fall behind, increase fatigue and cause a sense of unfulfillment.

Like many women, I’ve had to learn to say no in a way that would not appear obstructive since I’m keen to work hard and contribute to the business’s success, but not to the detriment of my mental and physical health.

Here are some tips I have found worked for me to learn to start saying no:

No need to apologize – We always feel the need to say sorry first, as if this is required to decline a project or task. Stating your reasons for saying no should suffice. Leave the apologies out of the equation.

Set boundaries – If the task does not fall under your scope, be clear about that. If you would have to sacrifice completing another job to do a new project, explain that. The expectation should not be that you work twice as long or hard to finish it all.

Make the best use of your time – The biggest time killers are meetings, so if you do not need to be part of a committee, discussion or call, then decline to attend. You’ll save time, which is the best use of a “No!”

Some polite ways of declining a request when you are asked directly can include these tactics:

  • Postponement: “I’m buried in work now, can you please come back to me later?” With this statement, you are making it clear you have limited time available. If they are really serious, they will come back later.
  • Referral: “I’m not qualified to work on this project. However, this may help.” Admitting that a project is not in your scope is not an indication of failure. Battling through work that you are not experienced enough to do and possibly disappointing them is worse.
  • Introduction: “I’m not the best person to speak to about this, but I know someone who can help.” Sending them to a more suitable candidate is not only helpful, but can free up your time, and you can avoid being the only point of contact every time.

Often, the most eager people are the ones always being asked to help, and the quieter people in the office who never volunteer are the ones leaving the office on time.

Assess who you are, and maybe, just maybe, you are the one who needs to learn to say no!

About the Author
Jasmina Muller is an accomplished channel executive with more than 20 years of experience in the telecommunications industry. She is the Vice President of Channel Partnerships at Everbridge. Previously, she held sales and channel leadership positions at 8×8 and CenturyLink Business. Muller has been an active member of the Alliance of Channel Women for the past three years. She was elected to the 2020-21 ACW Board of Directors and serves as Chair of the ACW Sponsorship Committee.