Auf Englisch auch mal 'Nein' sagen - achieve your professional goals

Gratis-Download: Auf Englisch auch mal 'Nein' sagen - achieve your professional goals

Obwohl sich jeder schon mal genötigt fühlt, "Ja" zu sagen, kann ein "Nein" Ihnen dabei helfen, sich auf die Projekte zu fokussieren, die für Ihre Karriere wirklich wichtig sind.

Saying 'yes' feels good; it feels right. We say 'yes' because we want to help, to please and to be positively perceived by co-workers and bosses. Say it too much, though, and you may end up overworking, underperforming and burning out. With more work demands, fewer resources and less time, combined with constant distractions and interruptions, it's more important than ever to learn how to say 'no'. Here are five approaches you can use the next time you feel compelled to say 'yes'.

Ask a question

Before responding to a request, ask a question, says behavioural change consultant and author Zach Davis. Doing so gives you additional information and prevents you from giving an automatic 'yes', he explains. Respond with the phrase 'Just so I understand...' because it clarifies what you're being asked to do before you commit to doing anything.

Buy time

If you can, say something like 'Let me look at my calendar/talk with my team and get back to you next Tuesday'. This language gives you breathing room to make counter-proposals. By not automatically saying 'yes' in the moment, you remove some of the immediate pressure and give yourself time to take a decision that you're comfortable with.

A modified 'yes'

When replying to requests, concentrate on the smaller things you can say 'yes' to. Saying 'Well, what I can do is this...' is a good phrase to use when you can't say 'no' (such as when your boss asks you to do something). This 'modified yes' is a positive compromise because the attention is on what you 'can do'.

Creating choices and alternatives

Make the conversation about choices and have your boss clearly state which projects have priority: 'Right now I have three pressing deadlines. Which ones should I make my highest priority?' This approach lets your boss be a part of the decision-making and priority-setting processes, making it more likely that you can come to a compromise you are both satisfied with.

Giving a reason

Finally, 'because' can soften the blow of 'no' as it contextualises your answer and makes you less likely to be seen as a bad sport. Say something like, 'My team is still absorbing the change initiatives from last quarter. If we add another new project, I really worry about product quality and staff burnout.' Focus your attention on what the consequences would be and connect those consequences to organisational goals: lower productivity, more customer complaints, more overtime, or more burnout.


Check your vovabulary

approach - Methode, Vorgehensweise

(a) bad sport - ein Spielverderber

breathing room - Freiraum

to commit to doing sth - sich verpflichten, etwas zu tun

to contextualise sth counter-proposal - Gegenvorschlag

to feel compelled to do sth - sich gezwungen sehen, etwas zu tun

pressing (adj.) - akut

to soften the blow - die harte Wirkung abmildern



Just so I understand, you want me to be the project leader for the sales expo in April?'

Purpose: Clarify exactly what you're being asked to do.

Advantage: You understand exactly what is being asked of you, so you can respond accordingly.


Let me come up with estimated hours for this project and get back to you on Monday.'

Purpose: Don't give an immediate answer.

Advantage: Buys you time and establishes a specific response deadline.


'Which project should have higher priority? The ones I'm currently working on or the one you're asking me to do now?'

Purpose: Indicate your workload and help clarify priorities.

Advantage: Shows your boss that you are committed.


'Well, what I can do is oversee the finances.'

Purpose: Find the small piece of the request that you can say 'yes' to.

Advantage: You can avoid giving a full 'no' or 'yes' but will still be seen as a team player.


'If we add another project, it could impact our product quality and lead to staff burnout.'

Purpose: Put the request in context and make the consequences clear: if we do X, we won't be able to do Y/Y will happen.

Advantage: Helps you and your boss generate alternatives and understand consequences.

Marc Abernathy