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Assertive Skills: The Art of Saying No


Most people don't want to get a reputation for being difficult or uncooperative.

Yet there are times when, for your own well-being and ultimately, the well-being of your colleagues and company, you have to be able to say "no".

The way we look at it at Impact Factory is that saying ‘no’ is all about setting boundaries and boundaries are for the other person, not for you.If you have conversations in your head that never get spoken; if you find yourself agreeing to something you really don’t have time to do; if you put other people’s priorities above your own consistently, then you are not setting adequate boundaries.

Saying ‘no’ doesn’t have to be done in an aggressive way, a stroppy way, an aggrieved way, which tends to imply that the other person is wrong for asking.

Setting effective boundaries enables you to let other people know your limitations, priorities, expectations and capabilities.

This is why our take on Assertiveness is all about The Art of Saying ‘No’, rather than it being just about saying ‘no’.

Here’s an example to demonstrate what we mean:

Version One, which is you giving in:

The Other Person:  I need you to work on the Johnson Report this afternoon.

You:  I’m seriously overloaded right now; is it really important I’m involved?

TOP:  Yes, it’s essential.

You:  Oh, all right; I’ll have to find the time then.

Version Two, which is you just saying ‘no’.

The Other Person:  I need you to work on the Johnson Report this afternoon.

You:  No, I can’t help; I’m snowed under.,/p>

TOP:  It’s really important you get involved.

You:  Well, I can’t help you out.


Version Three, using the Art of Saying ‘No’ and setting a boundary

The Other Person:  I need you to work on the Johnson Report this afternoon.

You:  I’m so sorry, I’m seriously overloaded right now; I don’t think I’m going to have the time.

TOP:  It’s really essential you’re involved.

You:  I hear how important it is.  This is what I can do.  I’ll carve out an hour to review what people have been working on and give some advice and guidance.

Other than that, I do have to finish the other projects I’ve been working on.

Version One will be familiar to anyone who gives in on a regular basis and makes for an unhappy, stressful time.

Version Two is way too abrupt and aggressive.

Version Three is what we would call the Middle Ground which we believe is where assertiveness should lie:  not too nice and certainly not too nasty.

If you think of practising the Art of Saying ‘No’ as practising boundary setting, your life could be a lot easier.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director, Impact Factory

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