When and how should we say “no”?  

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When and how should we say “no”?   A top expert shows how you can adjust your approach to achieve optimal results, today.

Ever since companies started working more cross-functionally and collaboratively, exchanging top-down management for dotted-line reporting with fuzzy accountability, work has gotten more complicated. All-day every day, most of us are fielding requests. The asks are formal and informal, large, and small. They’re not just from direct bosses and teammates but also from “internal customers” all over the organizational chart. Add to this the demands of external stakeholders, of family, friends, and acquaintances, and sometimes even of complete strangers. The requests keep coming—across tables and through zoom screens, by phone, e-mail, and instant message.

The inflow is daunting. And now more than ever, your professional success and personal well-being depend on how you manage it. You can’t say yes to everyone and everything and do all of it well. When you take on too many or the wrong things, you waste time, energy, and money and distract yourself from what’s really important. Still, no one wants to anger or disappoint colleagues or other contacts—or, worse, turn down key career and life opportunities.

You must therefore learn when and how to say both no and yes. A considered no protects you. The right yes allows you to serve others, make a difference, collaborate successfully, and increase your influence. You want to gain a reputation for saying no at the right times for the right reasons and make every single yes really count.

How do you do it? Through decades of research into what makes people the most highly valued, indispensable employees at hundreds of organizations, Bruce Tulgan founder of the management training firm Rainmaker Thinking has uncovered a framework that seems to work. As recently explained in Harvard Business Review, it has three parts:

  • assess the ask,
  • deliver a well-reasoned no, and
  • give a yes that sets you up for success.

Let’s start with part one: Assess the Ask

When making a financial investment, most of us do some due diligence—seeking out more information so that we can make a sound judgment. When you say yes or no to a...

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