As Indians we have grown up in a culture where people are helping, accommodating and always exchanging favors due to which we are prone to saying Yes to almost everybody for almost everything. Thus it is difficult for Indians to say No because we know that saying No will naturally make people feel bad. This worked for our culture a couple of decades ago when everyone was not too busy. But our culture, our up-bringing does not allow us to say No because we feel saying No will:

  • Hurt people
  • Spoil relationships
  • Create unnecessary conflicts
  • Wont be able to ask favors if we say No
  • People wont understand and get angry
  • People will take revenge by bad mouthing us
  • Appraisals will get affected if we say No to the Boss

Thus as Indians we are neither in favor of saying No, neither are we good at it.

But now with increasing ambitions, demands and expectations in our personal and professional life,  it is not possible to manage our time by saying Yes to people every-time. Today we are so busy that we must focus our energy on what’s most important and say No to all other distractions. We must prioritize what we say Yes and No to.

Today it is essential for us to learn the skill to say No assertively without hurting people. Because when we don’t say No these are some of the problems we encounter in our day to day lives:

  • We give commitments we cant keep
  • Then we avoid people
  • Make excuses
  • Get a bad reputation
  • We reach late at important events
  • We do things we don’t like
  • We get dominated by people and regret later
  • We feel helpless and lack of time
  • We feel over-worked
  • We don’t get time for ourselves
  • We reach home late from office
  • We are emotionally frustrated for doing things we don’t want to

The list goes on and I am sure I have not been able to point out all the problems you are experiencing in your daily life just because you cant or don’t say No to people. To avoid these problems let’s practice the following steps to master saying No assertively when it is necessary:

  1. Be aware of what are you scared of? – We don’t say No because we are scared of some consequences. Before you say No it is important to be aware of what are your fears, what are you scared about?
  2. Be willing to face your Fears – Every action has a reaction, every decision has a cost. If you say No to people, it will have some consequences. It is important that you are not only aware but ready to face your fears. if you are not ready to face your Fears, forget about saying No and face the consequences of saying Yes. Choice is yours! I would choose to face my fears and say No.
  3. Write your alternative options – If you are going to say No to people, make sure you are prepared to offer them with some alternative options.
  4. Ask for support before you say No – Before you say No to people ask them for support by saying “I know you may not like what I am saying but I need your support so I can be honest and open with you, will you help me please?” This way people are mentally prepared and willing to listen to you openly.
  5. Say No without using the word NO with options – The word NO triggers negative reaction in most people, so be creative in saying No to people without using the word NO and immediately offer some alternative options. It is important that you give people something so offer your options immediately.
  6. Ask for suggestions and listen – Once you have said No without using the word NO and offered your options, now ask them for their opinion/suggestions. Now listen to them with an open mind and be present to them.

I have shared these steps in many of my corporate workshops and seen the advantages people reap from it. Here are some of the advantaged of saying No assertively using the above points:

  • You will be able to prioritize your time
  • You will be able to say No and yet maintain your relationships
  • Gain people’s support inspite of saying No
  • Gain the reputation of an assertive communicator
  • Get time for yourself when you need it
  • Get balance between your work life and family life
  • Focus your maximum energy on what’s truly important

You will be surprised at the number of advantages that you will experience by practicing assertive ways of saying No. I hope this motivates you to practice the above steps starting today. If you need more clarification feel free to ask me questions in the comments section below so others can also benefit from our interaction.

All the Best & Master Assertiveness!

Mitesh Khatri