How do you learn to say no?

In order not to take on unwanted obligations and not stay in the office doing someone else’s work, you need to be able to say no. In theory, this is easier than in practice – often additional tasks are set by the boss, and refusing a client means being left without a salary.

We explain why it can be difficult for people to say no, why you need to learn how to do it, and how to overcome what arises after refusal a sense of guilt.

Why do people agree to do someone else’s work?

Most often – because of the fear of ruining relations in the team or losing credibility in the eyes of their superiors. Employees, especially newly hired employees, may feel like they are considered inept or unskilled. For many specialists, the only way to declare themselves is to take an unlimited number of tasks.

Sometimes this is added to ignorance of their job responsibilities – for example, they are not clearly spelled out in the contract or in a formulation that allows for situational interpretation. For example, the phrase “help maintain order in the hall” does not explain exactly how to do it – take dirty dishes from the tables or wash the floors if visitors have spilled coffee.

Constant consent kills productivity

As a rule, a request from colleagues for help at work always looks like something insignificant that can be dealt with in half an hour: a quick meeting, assistance in preparing an event, a small detour in the route to pick up or deliver an order.

Say no to overwhelm - Jayne Leslie

But the actual time for completing the assignment greatly exceeds the declared thirty minutes: meetings start at the wrong time and are delayed, one booking or hall design task turns into several, delivery to the city center is scheduled for rush hour.

As a result, “half an hour” helps eats up several hours of working time – subtract them from lunch, rest, and the opportunity to go home early.

How to say no correctly?


It is difficult to refuse clients because your profit depends on communication with them. Nevertheless, sometimes buyers of goods or services ask for the impossible: too big a discount, free delivery with the rise of equipment to a high floor without an elevator, expensive consumables as a gift.

Refusal of any such request should be argued, even better – to offer an alternative. Explain that instead of a 50% discount, you can provide 20%, instead of free delivery, we are ready to discuss its time with an hour’s precision, and instead of two hundred coffee capsules, we are ready to give fifty pieces and bring the next order for free.


The best way not to take extra work from colleagues is to make your project employment transparent. If this process is not automated, you do not have a corporate CRM or at least a common calendar with tasks, briefly explain that you are busy with your own tasks and you don’t have time to complete others.

If a colleague came with a request, it provides renouncement. If it is perceived painfully – it was a demand or an attempt to manipulate your feelings of duty and responsibility: neither the first nor the second is acceptable.


It’s the hardest thing to refuse a boss psychologically. In fact, the opposite is true: just explain to the manager what you are working on at the moment, and give advice on what task you can postpone to take on additional work.

Learning to Say "No" - Clutter Busting

For example, you can start preparing a new report right now, but then balance delivery will have to be postponed for a week. Your boss’s job is a project management and time management. If he is satisfied with this state of affairs, calmly begin to complete the task – instead of, not together.

How to overcome feelings of guilt after rejection?

If previously you consistently agreed to help colleagues at the expense of your own interests, you may feel guilty after refusing. To get rid of it and become immune to other people’s judgmental gazes, try taking a short time out before responding.

Say what you have to think or check the schedule and respond later – in a couple of minutes or the next day. Use the gained time to weigh the pros and cons, think about what you will gain and what you will lose if you agree to an extraordinary project.

The second option is to refer to the rules. People are more loyal to the refusal if it is justified – by the position of the company, a commercial agreement, or even personal convictions.

For example, you do not lend money, because you have a rule not to lend to friends. Or, let’s say you can’t stay on Friday because that day you are having dinner with your family or going to the theater.

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