The Art of ‘No’. A surprisingly easy way to assert yourself

The Art of saying No.

A surprisingly easy way to assert yourself

The Power of No

One ill-placed No can rebound around you like an echo, haunting you for years to come. The only word you can practise speaking with warmth and engagement and still fail to use correctly. It has the dynamic of so much intention. From self-defence to a statement of authority. The ultimate denial or an aggressive attack. This one little word can hold the power of the world or drown out your vision. Get the delivery wrong and it can become your protagonist. For those of us who have been on the receiving end, the reply of ‘no’ can pillage energy from the mind like a ninja.

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When you consider the power this one word can command, the skill of assertiveness seems to be weighted directly by the way we hurl this syllabic land-mine. The science of carefully blending the right tone, correct posture and lasered eye contact rarely comes together when you need it most. Most of the posturing and assertiveness gimmicks I have used in the past have failed dismally until I met one man who changed my life. I’m eager to share the wisdom.

So why use it at all?

You’re probably in a position where your opinion actually matters. Consider that your superior might not want to hear a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ in response to their closed question. That maybe, the test of your position has far greater importance in how you translate the question. For example, ‘will you have Project X done by 3pm this afternoon?’

Your best objection will be to grab a prop, in this case ‘time’ with both hands and eagerly command the use of it. Open the humble diary. Yielding more power than a tax audit, this device can be the best topic you have ever discussed in three steps.

With the boss waiting for an answer you comment “That’s a great project. I would love to finish it as it’s incredibly important. Let me check my diary and see what I can hold off for you.”

And now the boss leans in and observes the heavy handed-writing across the dated page “No, you can’t push that back, you can’t hold that up.” And in a smooth exchange of priorities the discussion launches into time, that one invaluable commodity shared and acknowledged by all. Bring time into the conversation and watch as plans are made. Welcome to your new servant, the art of not saying ‘no’. Time Management is just one way.

Another point of view?

In dialogue, professional leadership can also manage situations without saying no, by working from the other perspective. Although a tad harsh, consider that your opinion to another is now unimportant. They may be absorbed in their desired outcome. Take what the person has said and reflect it back to them, then turn it into a question. I would obviously not do this all the time however look at the pro’s. It is a great way of summarising and with the right assertiveness training it becomes easy. It is a great way to show your understanding and it’s an even better way to acknowledge the other persons point of view.

When asked if a report can be done by 3pm I might simply reply, ‘So the report needs to be done by 3pm, in what format would you like it?’ By mere reflection I can avoid ‘no’ and at the same time acknowledge that I am on the same page. Avoid saying ‘no’ and become a class act, your communication skills are now a work of art.