Practice #20: Do you feel over committed? High achievers tend to work on multiple projects. You often get asked to do more because everyone knows you make things happen. It’s served you well and you may be discovering that confidence and competence are both a blessing and a curse.
When you decide you want to reduce your commitments or not pile more on, it’s important to learn to say no with confidence and respect.
First, get clear on how strongly you feel about turning down or getting rid of a task or responsibility. Do you have a visceral, “I want nothing to do with this!” feeling or, “I like the project but I need to limit my time on it?” Sometimes you want to get out of something just because the time has come to move on.
Once you’re clear on how attached or detached you want to be, use these five strategies and responses to say no with confidence and grace.
Delay giving an answer
This allows you to give the request fair consideration. This is useful when a request has taken you by surprise or it’s a very big ask. Your response can be, “I need to think about whether I can take this on.” Then provide a date that you’ll get back to the person.
Say no without an extended explanation.
We often think we’re obligated to provide details on why we can’t do something. That just provides an opening for the other person to negotiate or press you further. If you are certain about your “no,” make it short and sweet. “I’m sorry but I just can’t take that on now,” communicates a lack of time. “I’m sorry but I don’t want to be involved in that,” makes it clear you don’t have an affinity for the project. It’s much better to have people on board who are excited and aligned with a project.
Limit your commitment
You can participate in a project without taking a lead role. This is useful when it’s a cause or project you believe in or it’s an important initiative in your workplace. You might respond, “I can’t be chairperson, but I can help on the event day.”
Decline and offer an alternative
In this scenario, you respectfully decline and offer an alternative person who you know would like the role. “I don’t feel I could devote the amount of time needed to do the job you’d expect and deserve, but I could recommend Matthew instead. I know he has a strong interest and the right skill set for this.”
Let go entirely
You’ve done a project or have been involved in a group for a long time and you want to move on. It’s important to exit gracefully as people may be upset that you’re ending your involvement. A genuine response might be, “I think it’s time that we get someone else who can bring a fresh perspective.” If you have a family, a legitimate response is, “I really need to focus on my family right now.” Who’s going to argue with that?
Do you have a graceful way you’ve said no? Share it in the comments below so others can benefit from your experience.
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