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15 Ways To (Gracefully) Say No At Work


Фев 20, 2023

If you’re a human person with a job, you’ve no doubt encountered your share of time-sucks. Often, it’s in the form of someone who wants your time but isn’t offering anything in return. In these scenarios, it’s up to you to decline gracefully — and without guilt.

As a work simplification expert with a handful of books and online courses, I’m constantly testing approaches to help my clients say “no” with intention so they can say “yes” with purpose. The 15 options below are proven phrases for firmly declining requests without offending the person demanding your time.

· “I can’t do it but let me see if I can recommend someone else.”

· “Wish I could, but I’m just not taking on new projects right now. ”

· “Sadly, I’m not able to assist this time.”

· “I’m afraid that I need to focus on X project right now.”

· “You’re so kind to think of me, but I just can’t lend a hand.”

· “Unfortunately, my time is already spoken for.”

· “If only I had a clone!”

· “I can’t dedicate the time I would need to do it.”

· “I’ll be heads-down on a project, so I won’t be able to help.”

· “I’m honored you asked, but I can’t help this time.”

· “I wish I could make this work…but I can’t.”

· “I’m afraid I’m unable to set aside the necessary time for this.”

· “Unfortunately, I won’t be able to find bandwidth for this.”

· “I’d love to, but I just can’t.”

· “It’s that time of the year where I must say no.”

Some replies are ideal for in-person conversations and some are better communicated via email or Slack. While they’re all designed to prevent further debate, not all of them may work for everybody. Decide which phrases feel natural to you and keep those handy. However, if you’re in a leadership role, consider sharing all fifteen options with your teams so they can choose for themselves.

By the way, if the time-waster happens to be your boss, try an approach called Yes…if. When they ask you to handle something for which you don’t have bandwidth, respond with: “Yes…if we can pause Y Project or take something else off my plate” or “Yes…if you’re able to pull the data that needs to be analyzed.”

This arsenal of phrases is designed to help you set firm yet polite boundaries around your time. Consider committing one or two phrases to memory so they are top of mind the next time you’re cornered by a colleague, manager, or senior leader. Because ultimately, the only guardian of your valuable time is you.

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