You can’t agree to every request that you receive throughout the workday. When you need to decline, take these steps to add meaning to your ”No”:
- Listen. The more thoroughly you understand the request, the more meaningful your response will be. Ask questions and listen carefully to convey your respect to the speaker.
- Pause. Control your impulse to offer an immediate response. Take time – about five to 10 seconds – to consider the request and frame your reply.
- Reply straightforwardly. Once you’ve determined that you should decline, calmly state I’m going to have to say “No.” Don’t chicken out and say ”Let me think about it,” “Maybe” or “I’ll get back to you.” Remember, the person making the request may have a backup plan in mind. By offering a clean refusal, you will enable the individual to approach someone else.
- Have a reason. You’re under no obligation to share your reason for turning down a request. But doing so may help the other person understand your priorities and goals. That could help you avoid having to turn down similar requests in the future.
- Offer alternatives. Can you suggest another person who might be better able to provide the service you’ve been asked for? Perhaps you can offer limited assistance that will aid the other person without creating too big a strain on your time.
What’s the worst reaction you’ve received to telling someone “No”?
Although email offers a casual means of communicating, remember to maintain professionalism. Follow these guidelines:
- Start with formal salutations. Use Ms. or Mr. and then last names when contacting people the first time. Switch to first names if and when they respond by signing their first names, otherwise you risk appearing too impersonal.
- Include a greeting. When emailing to a group of people, beginning with “Hi all” may sound a bit clumsy. Use “Hello everyone” or just “Hello.”
- Send thanks. Handwritten thank-you notes offer a personal touch, but go ahead and use email to express your appreciation more quickly.
- Minimize fonts and colors. Resist the temptation to use fancy fonts, sizes and colors. In general, choose a legible font such as Arial, Calibri or Times New Roman. Use either 10- or 12-point type and stick to black text.
— Adapted from “Email Etiquette: Still Puzzling After All These Years,” Barbara Pachter, Pachter’s Pointers, http://www.barbarapachtersblog.com.
Photo credit: [www.flickr.com/photos/karpidis]
You’ve got a serious situation: Your team needs new software to complete a project. However, your boss just told you that your budget is slashed for the remainder of the year and that she will only approve critical expenses. You see no way to complete the project—and ensure quality—without the software. What do you do?
Persuading people, especially when money is involved, is never easy. The key is to prove to your boss that she can trust your ideas and believe in your plan. To do that, you must be prepared to the point that you leave very little room for doubt. Follow this process to persuade your boss to back your ideas:
- Rehearse the main points of your discussion. Write your ideas on paper and practice delivering your viewpoints in front of a mirror. You may feel strange (or lame), but you will come across as much more confident—and competent—and that is critical to gaining someone’s support for an idea.
- Grab your boss’s attention. Put yourself in your boss’s shoes, and frame your argument based on specific pain points. For example, explain that you’ll miss a deadline on a much anticipated product launch without additional resources.
- Do your homework. You can’t gain buy-in if you aren’t prepared with accurate, detailed and organized information. Present evidence that your idea will work—and is worthy of the expense. Research what your competitors are doing, offer multiple price quotes, and document how your idea will ultimately save or generate money.
- Use an appropriate communication style. Use tact to present your argument and respect the other person’s time. Being pushy or angry will immediately put your boss on the defensive. Stick to the facts, stay calm, and don’t complain.
- Schedule a meeting to discuss your plan, instead of barging into your boss’s office. Send documentation, whether that’s a report or pricing quotes, prior to the meeting so your boss has time to review them before your discussion.
- Listen to your boss’s response. You may hear cues that will lead you to a compromise or another solution. Ultimately, accept that the money just might not be there, and prepare yourself to get back to work and do the best you can.
Have you ever been declined resources or manpower because of budget restrictions? How did you overcome that?
[photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/85638163@N00/4627835906/%5D
You can’t eliminate difficult conversations at work, but you can make them easier and more productive. The following best practices, from our multimedia toolkit Mastering Difficult Conversations, will boost your skills and confidence in those situations.
Become a master of handling difficult conversations by remembering the following tips:
- Start with respect. Hold tempers in check by having all participants in the conversation agree at the beginning to respect each other and the problem you are discussing.
- Avoid the words “no,” “never” and “wrong” during a difficult conversation. Those words increase conflict. Instead, respond by seeking more information. Say: “That’s interesting. Why do you feel that way?”
- Reframe the question. Instead of thinking “Why don’t they _____?” ask yourself “Why don’t I _____?”
- Use names. Referring to other people by name shows respect and focuses their attention on what you are saying.
- Gain ground when you are under verbal attack: Thank your attacker for the comments. Remember that the attack likely is not personal and that keeping your cool is the best strategy.
- Complain without whining by stating your observations, not your frustrations. Instead of saying “You’re driving me nuts,” say: “Your interruptions are preventing me from finishing this project. Let’s meet after I complete it at 3 p.m.”
- Build to a climax. Encourage others to accept your point of view by stating the simple, obvious reasons. Then work up to more complex reasons to win them over.
- Encourage engagement. Welcome questions and comments when you are striving to overcome resistance to your position. Respond to others with comments like these: “That’s a good question.” “You bring up an excellent point.” “Thanks for reminding me …”
- Challenge others without causing conflict by asking them to clarify their comments. Say: “I think I may have misunderstood what you meant. Would you mind repeating what you just said?”
- Check emotions. Before you respond to a tough question or a comment that angers you, pause. Think about what you want to say and the best way to say it.
- Don’t disagree. Instead of saying “I disagree” or “You’re wrong,” say “I see it differently.” Starting from that point, you pique the other person’s interest instead of defenses.
- Control anger with a simple to-do list. On index cards, jot down six things you need to do when you start feeling hot under the collar: breathe, slow down, listen and so on. Review your ideas often, and the six steps will become second nature.
- Slow the pace. Ask the other person to speak slowly so that you can record notes. By doing that, the speaker will organize his or her thoughts, and you can create a record of important points to address.
- Close the deal. Don’t end a problem-solving session until you’re sure the other person is satisfied. Ask: “From your point of view, does that solve the problem?”
What’s your advice for handling difficult workplace conversations?