Mark Ellwood’s Brainy Blog of Fascinating Facts and Timely Tips

Take Control When You Can’t Say No

All, Time Tips

Sometimes it is difficult to say no. An urgent request comes your way and it has to get done. Right now. Yesterday if possible. If you could say no and turn down the request, you’d have more time for the things that count. But the situation demands action and you can’t refuse. You’re not too happy about it. In that case, you might just have to say yes. But when you do, take control of the situation rather than letting it take control of you. Provide suggestions or alternatives to the person making the request. “I can help you by finding out who really should be doing this,” or, “How about if I show you how to do that and then you’ll be all set to go.”

Or, agree to the request this time. But ask how the two of you might plan better to avoid a rush the next time.

Another strategy is to tell the person “yes”, but remind them that they owe you one. For example, if you have to fill in for them at work, they might reciprocate by covering you for a shift the next time you need time off.

You can’t always say no, but you can you can take control by setting the timetable on your own terms. For instance say, “OK, I think I can squeeze that in. I expect I’ll be able to get it to you by four o’clock today. Does that work?” Set the schedule rather than letting someone set it for you.

Finally, consider putting a tough condition on your agreement. “If it would only take an hour, I’d be able to help, but I can’t give you more than that.” When in doubt, it’s easier to say no now, and then change your mind to a yes later, rather than the other way around.

So take control and manage those interuptions.  After all, your time is worth it.

Mark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 


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