What to Say When All You Want To Say is “No, I can’t” – Assert yourself and stay positive and helpful

You can hear yourself can’t you? You’re asked a question or someone’s asking you to do something and all you can hear in your head is “no I can’t” or “no, not another thing” or “no way mate!”. It’s so natural to be answering the question directly as it’s being asked instead of taking a second to re-position your response. It’s about saying what you can do, what you’re able to do, what’s possible without actually saying no.

There are a myriad of ways to do this and too many to list here for you but it’s very much part of the secret sauce of being a more savvy communicator – being able to say “no” effectively without saying it.

One of the ways you can immediately take and use, is the “What Can I Do” principle. Think about this scenario for a second – you’re at your desk, the phone rings and suddenly, as the phrase goes “someone’s urgency becomes your emergency”. Or does it have to?

Of course it’s all about context and recognizing a true jump-to-it moment but a lot of the time the person making the request will be happy with you saying “Ok, of course I can get that to you and I’ll send it across by 4pm” for example. You’re acknowledging the request, you’re being helpful and you’re saying what you can do. You don’t have to list all the things you’re doing and all the “reasons” why you can’t do it, you just cut to the chase and say “Yes, of course, I’ll do that for you by XYZ o’clock”. They can always come back and tell you if that’s too long or too late but what you’ve told them by your first response is “yes, and I’m making space for your request a bit later.”

So many people immediately say “oh, no – I’m right in the middle of XYZ and up to my eyes in things, I can’t possibly do that too” or “Oh, ok then” and drop what they’re in the middle of, what they’re already concentrating on, and rush off to attend to this request.

Interestingly, it will take you longer to complete your own piece of work because you’ve broken off and started something else. I think I read somewhere that it takes at least 5 or 6 minutes to get your brain back in tune with something you’re concentrating on when you break off. That’s why constantly checking emails, always answering your phone because it rings means that – as well as the physical distraction – the mental distraction makes it take longer for you too.

So, what can you do now?

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About the Author

Hi, I'm Tom Burkinshaw, I co-produce the Maximise Your Potential Podcast and Website and my goal is to help as many people as possible be successful in life, careers and business, by offering free coaching and mentoring through a series of unique interviews from inspiring people who all display exceptional self-belief, mental toughness and desire to achieve. Thank you for taking the time to visit Maximise Your Potential!