Being Assertive: Approaches for saying No….

November 28th, 2012 by Martin Smith Leave a reply »

Do you struggle to say no to requests for your time?

Do you drop whatever you’re doing to help others despite having deadlines?


If the answer to the two questions above was yes, then you will probably benefit from these approaches for saying No more effectively.


Quite often people struggle with saying no to someone request as they don’t want to offend them. It’s even more difficult when it’s your boss that’s making the request. Adopting a more assertive approach to your language and tone can bring much better results.


The assertive approaches below will help you to say no more effectively whilst at the same maintaining and building the relationship for the future.

  • Up-front honesty: This is the simplest and the best approach. If they know the true reason why you aren’t saying yes, then they can judge whether to approach you for the next situation, which actually might be for a good opportunity where you would want to say yes to.


  • Redirection: Point that person in a direction (another person, another approach) where they will have a better chance of finding a yes. If you are a person who can redirect someone to an effective alternative, you will still be considered valuable.


  • Letting the other person say no for you: Don’t bear the entire burden! If you know that saying yes in this situation is saying no to a more important situation, then just present your case and let the other person say no for you.


  • Not now, but later: The word “maybe” is sometimes a good euphemism for “no.”


  • Circumstances: Sometimes it’s not a choice at all… you have prior commitments, or conflicts of interest, or whatever. Your circumstance is saying no, not you. Make sure it’s legitimate though, since integrity is also important.


  • Polite: If none of the above options are viable, then a polite “no” should do the trick. You risk the chance of being perceived as an unhelpful person, but sometimes you simply have to politely say no without going through the messy details of the other approaches.


  • Blunt: This is the tactic against the persistent salesperson. Sometimes the emphatic “no” is the only “no” they’ll hear.



How do you say no to people? What suggestions would you have for other people? Add your comments to the discussion below……..


Martin Smith Learning and Development Ltd is a specialist consultancy working with leaders at all levels to improve their relationships with the people that they interact with both internally and externally to the company. We work with organisations, teams and individuals to identify how they can get the best from their people. We have experience spanning diverse industries and encompassing sectors such as engineering, design, customer service, finance, supply chain, sales and procurement.

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  1. I’m probably far too guilty of being the ‘yes man’. Whilst I would say it has garnered me with a great reputation in some quarters of my business, I would probably admit that I have, as a result, let some people down by saying ‘yes’ to too many things when a saying ‘no’ would have been for the benefit of not only myself, but the person actually asking.

    I think my desire to please and satisfy people is actually done to my own detriment at times.

    I think I’ll try saying ‘no’ to some of the more menial things that can be passed on to someone else just as capable in 2013 and see how I get on.

    Thanks again Martin for more valuable, free information.

  2. martin says:

    Hi Michael,
    A very honest response, but that is no more than I would expect from your good self. I am glad that you enjoyed it and found it of use, your welcome to share it with your networks should you wish.

    The point that I would pick up on in your response is will you only “try” to say ‘no’ to some of the more menial requests or will you simply do it and say ‘No’? It takes less energy to actually do something than to try. Good luck with your changes!



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