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When you say “no” and they won’t listen

I don’t have many people in my life who don’t take no for an answer, but I do have a few – and I’ve worked with a few.  

There is little more maddening in a work situation when you have said “no” very clearly and they still try to persuade you to change your mind.  

This may involve trying a new tactic, shaming you, etc. but it can be really difficult to stand your ground when you know that “no” is the appropriate response.

So, what do you do?

  • Enlist additional support – Sometimes when they won’t listen to you, they might listen to your boss or your other partners.  If they are willing to provide a response, then encourage them to do it!
  • Don’t take it personally – I know it seems quite personal when someone attempts to shame you into saying yes to something that isn’t a good fit with your current priorities or commitments, but remember that it is HIS issue, not yours. He is trying to make it about you, but it’s not!
  • Provide alternate solutions – The proposed idea may not work well with your current focus or priorities; however, you may have some ideas that could work well but be different than what was proposed. For instance, if someone is wanting you to host a large conference in order to share best practices, perhaps another option is to alternate hosting webinars focused on sharing ideas and discussing best practices.  Also, you may not be the right person, but someone else might be. Help them explore who else might be a good fit for the opportunity.
  • Use Michael Hyatt’s famous response for “no” – “In order for me to fulfill my existing commitments I am unable to….”  It’s true AND it’s much more difficult to argue with because it shows the person/people that they are trying to take away from someone else in order to get their way.  That is the case if they have some self-awareness…:)
  • Stand your ground  If you have evaluated the proposition and know that this is not a good use of your current time and priorities, then stand your ground.  Again, it’s so that you can fulfill your existing commitments and you don’t want to give someone else control over your time.  If you do, then you might end up doing all kinds of things that don’t fit your priorities and goals and not be able to accomplish what you are best skilled at doing and what you have committed to doing. Also, if you stand firm, it will eventually force them to leave you alone.
  • Take the high road It may be tempting to respond with attacks or shame or defensiveness, but this won’t accomplish long-term goals of collaboration and future partnerships. It also may damage your relationships with other partners. If they find out you responded negatively, they may be less likely to work with you for fear that you will treat them that way too. Also, if you have continued to take the “high road” in the past, it’s more likely that you will be able to enlist more support (see #1). This also shows that you aren’t taking it personally (see #2).
  • Choose not to keep responding If you have been clear about your “no” and someone keeps pestering you to think about it again, it is not necessary to keep responding with “no” again and again.  They will eventually listen to your “no” even if they don’t like it.  By not continuing to respond, you let your “no” stand firm.
  • Stay focused on your “yes”s Again, the reason you need to say “no” to this person is because you have said yes to many more.  Rather than allowing yourself to be burdened by the belligerent, step away and focus on what you have said “yes” to and do it with your very best!  This will help energize and inspire you and will be a way to live with integrity.  Remember, in order to fulfill your existing commitments, you must say “no”!

What has worked in helping you effectively say “no”?

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