Why Is It So Hard To Say No?

Why It Is Hard To Say No

Do you have trouble saying “No” to your clients? Would you rather face exhaustion and stress, than refuse your client’s or manager’s demands? Does the thought even saying no, cause you to feel panic and overwhelmed?

If you said “Yes” to any of my questions, you are not alone! Many people face this dilemma every day.

For many years, “Can’t” and “No” were words that didn’t exist in my vocabulary. I believed that in order to be successful in my job, I needed to heed to all requests.

It was easy to make myself available to my clients around the clock than to impose limits on what I could do, wanted to do and needed to do in my life.

Instead of saying “No, I have something important to complete”, I answered all questions.

If someone stopped by my desk, instead of saying “No, I am busy”, I set aside my work and listened to their needs.

If I was selected for a project, instead of saying “No, this is not the best opportunity for me”, I undertook requests that were not the best use of my strengths.

I once spent an entire anniversary dinner on a client call. It seems ridiculous in hindsight. Why couldn’t I say no to that client?

Many years have passed since that event occurred, but it rankles to this day!

Over the years I have learned to recognize my resistance to decline or refuse a client’s demand. I have found that if I am hesitating to say no, it is usually because of one of these reasons.

We don’t say no because we want to be approachable

I believe that every client relationship should be founded on trust. Being available makes you approachable and trustworthy.

But wanting to be approachable doesn’t mean being available with a disregard for boundaries! In fact boundaries are essential for any client relationship to be meaningful and long lasting.

We don’t say no because we want to be helpful

I don’t know about you but I absolutely hate turning away a client. Especially if I feel that there is an opportunity for me to educate them or make their life easier.

It is great to be helpful. But we all need to think beyond helping our client just that one time. Instead of always helping our clients, why not consider teaching them to help themselves?

We don’t say no because we don’t want to lose a single opportunity

I once turned down an opportunity to work late on a Thanksgiving Eve. It would have been a great chance to spend quality time with my clients and show off my expertise.

Yes, I might have missed a worthwhile opportunity. But I was glad that I chose to spend time with my family instead. I later heard that that evening was chaotic and unproductive.

It is true that you will never know when a small opportunity could lead to something big. But you can’t always agree to every request out of this fear.

We don’t say no because we are taught to be polite

In many cultures, including the Indian culture, it is considered the height of rudeness to refuse a request. Although I drank the “be polite” koolaid , I learned early on that people could take advantage of politeness.

There is such a thing as taking politeness to the extreme! When you are being assertive you are not being rude! The easiest way to overcome this cultural difficulty is by making your intent clear.

We don’t say no because we don’t want to jeopardize relationships

We don’t want to turn away people because we are afraid of jeopardizing our relationship with them. We worry that they may misunderstand us. They may give us a bad review or bad mouth us to others.

Instead of giving into this fear, we can make our intentions clear and provide alternatives to help our client.

We don’t say no because we want to avoid dealing with difficult people

I am not proud to admit it, but there was a time when I avoided conflict at all cost! Just the thought of dealing with angry clients drove me to accept all requests. But I learned that this type of avoidance wouldn’t serve me in the long run. It wouldn’t bring me any opportunities for leadership.

The key to finding the right opportunities (and the right clients) is to be assertive. Face the fear head on. You can learn to communicate effectively with even the most difficult clients.

We don’t say no because we associate availability with authority

Corporate culture confuses availability with authority. This myth continues to flourish at my former employer, where analysts who respond fastest to a request are praised as being the most competent.

Instead of authority, we must choose power. We wield the power to influence our client and their work through our expert knowledge. This power can be put to work in many ways without us being at the beck and call of our clients.

We don’t say no because we don’t want to be misunderstood

The foremost reason we hesitate to say no is because we fear being misunderstood. We would rather sacrifice our ego and our pride and continue to operate under stress than suffer the injustice of having our words twisted and used against us.

Do any of these reasons sound familiar to you? I have experienced each of them at some point in my career.

I have learned that even if you experience some or all of these fears, it is better to say no. The fears won’t subside even if you continue to ignore the mental and physical stress caused by expending your energy on the wrong things.

When you say no, you are showing your clients that you have needs and priorities; you value your time. Saying No is not a privilege it is a prerogative.

After all, isn’t that what leadership is about?

Leaders… they know how to say no. The pressure on leaders to do 984 different things is unbearable, so the effective ones learn how to say no and stick with it. They don’t suffocate themselves as a result. Too many leaders try to do a little bit of 25 things and get nothing done. They are very popular because they always say yes. But they get nothing done.”

— Peter Drucker

There are many ways for you to interrupt the yes cycle. By learning to communicate your refusal or dissension in an effective way, you can earn respect from yourself as well as those around you.

Have you found yourself struggling to say no to your client’s demands? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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