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Connie Ragen Green — Learn How to Say No!

You want to be helpful at work. People come up to you and ask for your help all the time. Your boss gives you tasks because she knows you’ll get the work done on time. Your colleagues hit you up because you are one of the most knowledgeable people. The trouble is, you have a difficult time getting your work done. When this happens, you need to learn how to say no.

It wasn’t until I started my own business that I learned how to do this in a way that was tactful and did not make the other person feel like I was judging them or saying they were wrong. This days I say no more often than I say yes, and this has changed my outlook and perspective in a major way. There are ways to say no that won’t make you seem like the bad person. One great way to do this is to let people know you have other tasks and that you can get to their tasks after you complete yours.

Recently I had an experience in my personal life that once again reminded me that I must learn how to say no at times, even if it is with a close friend. Here’s what occurred:

A friend of mine was having a book signing at a local book store and I was excited to share this experience with her and to support her in her journey as a published author. At the end of her presentation, where she read an excerpt from her book, told us how she got started writing and how this book came about, introduced the illustrator and had him demonstrate his process of creating the characters based on the author’s vision, she told us to pay for the book at the register and then return to have our books signed.

There were already a few people in line who were not from our group, so I ended up being the fourth person waiting to check out. As I made it to the front of the line a lady I consider to be a friend came up to me with two books in her hands and asked me if I would pay for hers because she didn’t want to wait in line. She had family arriving in a few days and wanted to stop at the grocery store before it closed.

At that moment I wanted to say no, but something inside of me did not do that. No one likes to wait in line, and on that particular evening I had things to do that were far more pressing and urgent than she did. But I took her books and smiled, not realizing the chain of events this would set off. If she had left at that moment it might have turned out differently. But she lingered at my side, making her actions appear to me and to the twenty or so people now lined up behind us as simply taking cuts in line because they knew someone at the front of the line. She took her books and left as soon as I had paid, saying that she didn’t want to wait in line to have them signed and would contact the author another day to do that.

The result was that I did something I did not want to do, and in the process I took advantage of the situation and upset the people behind me. Many of them had young children who needed to get home to get ready for school the next morning.

When my phone rang later that evening and it was her, I let it go to voice mail. She was thanking me for getting the books for her, and again said that she hadn’t wanted to wait in line. By then I was beginning to get angry, mostly at myself for not saying no to her in the first place. But I waited until the next morning to contact her, and did so with a well thought out email message. I detailed the situation from my perspective, and also shared the feelings of those behind us in line and what they said to me after she left the book store.

She wrote back a few hours later, thanking me for being honest with her and making her aware of what had occurred. I had been straightforward and tactful, something I continue to work on in my life. The result here was a friendship saved and feelings spared. When you learn how to say no, these situations will occur less frequently in your life.

Learn How to Say No Firmly, Yet Gently

It’s fine to help people out, but you should avoid doing something for them they need to do themselves. If someone asks you to do something simply because they don’t feel like doing it, you need to stand firm in telling them this is unacceptable. You should first ask why they can’t get to it. Perhaps someone else has given them more tasks to do. You need to show them how to say no to those other people.

Some people are simply slackers. They try to pass off all their work to other people. When you find one of these people, confront them. If you do this early on, they will lose the control. You will also show your other colleagues that you won’t let the slacker have control, and they should follow suit.

You’ll have a tougher time telling your boss no. She’s the boss after all. However, you do need to let her know that your plate is full and try to compromise. See if you can get a priority of the extra tasks your boss is piling on. Also, if others on the team are currently freed up from their tasks, see if they would be willing to take on those extra duties. Learn how to say no in a way that is a win-win for those involved.

It’s important never to get angry when others approach you with more work. Smile and find out why they are hitting you up for the extra work. It could be they are not aware of your schedule. You can produce your to-do list if this is the case. By staying calm, you keep the control in your corner. If you blow up at people, they are going to consider you volatile which makes it difficult for them to compromise with you. It’s rarely a situation in which you will come up the winner. It is okay to be firm with people when you discover they are simply trying to pass work off to you.

As an entrepreneur I deal with a whole new level of saying no to people. They want me to mentor them for a percentage of future earnings, promote their products when I have no idea who they are, and to speak at my events on topics that are not even closely related to what my event is about. Learning how to say no to these people, while still acknowledging and respecting them as human beings has been quite the experience.

How and when did you learn how to say no?

This article was originally published on my site at

Connie Ragen Green is a bestselling author, marketing mentor, and online marketing strategist, working with people and corporations on six continents to help them increase their credibility, expand their visibility, and explode their profitability. If you’re interested in getting started with the journey to online entrepreneurship and taking your life to the next level, find out more by downloading your Online Entrepreneur Blueprint and get started today.

Originally published at

Online marketing strategist, author, speaker, and publisher working with entrepreneurs on six continents.

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