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  • Raghav Sand

Every Well-reasoned ‘No’ Creates Room for a Strategic ‘Yes’

Throughout the day we get requests from colleagues and associates to join a project. It is not easy to say no, but sometimes asking to be excused is in everyone’s interest. We may already have too much on our plate and signing up for an additional task may hamper our core work. The same situation may replicate in our personal lives, when we are requested by friends / acquaintances to join them over the weekends. The path to long term success passes through junctions which can make us unpopular; accept this fact and be purposeful yet polite.

Strategic Yes and Well-reasoned No

People can’t say no these days. They feel a strong sense of obligation to say yes too often. Trying to be a crisis manager, and being indispensable has removed the word no from the vocabulary of many. The situation has become more aggravated in current times as cost reduction measures have trimmed down workforce in almost every organisation. Multi-tasking has become a necessity, leading to burnout and loss of motivation. The apprehension of being on the wrong side of colleagues and the chain of command is making people agree to be part of new projects.

Saying yes or no to a request or assignment should be carefully considered. The world, as we know it today, was not built from kneejerk decisions. The progress humans have made is also not made from only saying no to propositions. Every well-reasoned no creates room for a strategic yes. Yes, is a call for action and it dictates how the resources are allocated to get the maximum return. Saying no doesn’t mean being lazy or incapable, but it means that a person thinks their time can be better utilized elsewhere. This situation should arise when there is more than one possible course of action.

Overcommit and then Overcorrect

Making a commitment to others without evaluating own schedule can lead to the feeling of being overwhelmed. The core skill and task of a person may have to take a backseat if the accommodative nature is not kept in check. Delays and frustration can easily dent confidence, and the quality of performance may dip significantly. A person who has already made various commitments will have to overcorrect and may end up saying no to rewarding assignments. The need to please co-workers must be balanced with the long-term game; outcome in the intermediate should be taken in stride.

Intake Memo

It may sound over the top, but taking notes about the task someone wants you to be part of makes complete sense. An intake memo is used by law firms and clinics as an initial summary of a potential client’s case. It is an informal record, in the form of a brief written note or outline, of a particular legal transaction or document for the purpose of aiding the parties to remember particular points or for future reference. Whenever you are being asked to be part of a project or team over and above your own deliverables, make it a habit to ask questions and take notes. Knowing the when, how and why of a task will turn out to be useful in deciding whether to commit to a request or not. An impulsive yes and no are equally capable of inflicting pain and disgust.

Explore Other Ways of Being Useful

If you are one of those people who are service oriented and for some reason you cannot be the solution, then try to be part of the solution. Fact: You cannot say yes to everyone, every time. You can help the person who came to you with a request by evaluating their questions and help them find out alternatives. Ask yourself a few simple questions – can you do it? Are you allowed to do it? Should you do it? Communicate the decision in a straightforward and simple manner. Remember one important thing about saying no – it will still be a no even if you try to sugar-coat it.

Work on Your Reputation

When people hear you say yes / no, they should feel like you mean it. There has to be weight behind every word you speak. If you say yes to a request, the person asking you should feel a sense of commitment and if they hear you say no, it must make them realise that it was not possible for you to spare quality time. Reputation is built when a person is an expert in their domain and has the habit of upskilling. Consistent and proven decision-making skills help in adding to the reputation. You should know what you want to be known for. As a junior level employee, it may not be always possible to say no and in such cases hierarchy of the person making a request matter. Always work on producing results and keep both the intermediate and long-term picture in mind.

Don’t worry about being caught in the perception maze and always work on reliability. Primarily help yourself and if the schedule permits, then take a strategic call about collaborating with others. There should be core skill anchorage at all times and marginal yet incremental addition should be made to existing competencies.

Never Overuse Influence

A friend / colleague may not realise that using influence will deny them some of the influence in the future. Making a request with an undertone of ‘old times’ sake’ will lose currency eventually. Time is the most critical resource, use it wisely.

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