The art of saying No

Business Support
The Art of Saying No

Every day we are faced with people making requests. They want some sort of information, some sort of help, a favour perhaps… for us to do this or do that… but, how do we do everything, without being overwhelmed? As I have grown in my relationships with my family, friends, work colleagues and acquaintances, I have realised that at some point, I need to say no.

No matter how nice you are, and although you don’t want to let people down, for your peace of mind, this two letter word is really important. ‘No, sorry, I am busy at the moment’, ‘no, I cannot attend your meeting’, ‘no, I have other commitments’, ‘no, I cannot take a break’. This self-realisation of taking charge of my own actions occurred when I started my journey with Madison, four months ago. The opportunity to work for Madison was god-sent. I had been jobless for at least three months, my savings were dwindling and the mortgage and bills still needed to be paid. When I stepped into this role, I struggled with the balancing act of trying to live life and work. Squeezing in time with my Mum, who has early onset dementia, became a challenge. Trying to make boot camp to maintain my fitness, and simply having a social life became a struggle. It was overwhelming at first — and I needed to learn how to prioritise.

I realised my passion and a journey into the career that I have always wanted had begun. However, as a Candidate Manager, I felt like an ant at the bottom of a forest looking up at the canopy. However I was adamant that I needed to make my stand, to have my voice heard, to use my University-learned skills to help me build a professional career. I have always felt that I have lived my life backwards. I have always worked whilst I studied, this gave me courage. I looked after my parents, this gave me strength. I volunteer, this makes me happy. I travel, this gives me insight. I dance, this makes me giddy. I work because I am a successful, independent woman who fortunately has had the support of a wonderful team here at Madison, who have supported and helped me grow since I first set foot in the South East office.

Being part of Madison has brought out so many skills and capabilities which I thought I would never use. My job has involved public speaking, interacting with strangers, liaising on the phones, chatting to job seekers and identifying their needs, taking notes from Consultants and acting on what needs to be done. I have also learned how to say ’No’, and this is definitely not a bad thing.

Along the way I’ve worked out how to say ‘no’ effectively, here are my top tips:

Take time to consider your priorities, what needs to be done, make a plan, a to-do list….trust me, the satisfaction of ticking off jobs as you go does wonders!

Prioritise your own work over others’. We are usually stuck when we have 10 things to do and then someone else asks you to do something. We need to be able to say, ‘I would love to help however, I am stuck writing a report and will not be able to get what you need done straight away’.

Consider the consequences of saying no. Will it ruin the relationship with a fellow colleague if you cannot take a coffee break? Or, will saying ‘No’ mean that you can focus on a task that needs the attention and has bigger gains when completed?

Use the correct tone to say no. Emails can be misconstrued, plus saying no to the person directly will send a clearer message. However, be careful not to sound threatening or harsh! If you get to this stage, you need to take five!

Learn to offer alternatives. ‘Hey, I know you want to meet but I am in an interview, I could catch up for 5 minutes after. Will that suit?’ Send out a calendar reminder if something needs urgent attention, and talk it out in a meeting setting, this way everyone who has to be there is present and ready to tackle any issues.

Learning to say no has been portrayed as a negative thing, however, in a busy work space, especially recruitment where we are constantly engaging with clients and candidates, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and burnt out. Being able to say no can release some tension and stress and help you focus on the more important tasks that need to get done.

Try it, it keeps me sane, it helps me get through the day, it helps me be more effective. Who will you next say ‘no’ to?