4 steps for turning down unreasonable requests on the phone
‘Nein’ sagen ist nicht immer leicht. Doch manche Bitten und Anfragen, die Sie als Sekretärin erhalten, sind wirklich unmöglich. So sagen Sie höflich, aber bestimmt und professionell ‘nein’.
As a secretary or PA, you are probably constantly bombarded with telephone calls asking for help, for your time and for special favours. Although it is nice helping people, some requests can be downright unreasonable.
Learning to say ‘no’ to a boss, a client or a co-worker is an important skill. It involves using di plom acy, tact and respect and being firm at the same time.
Learn and practice how to say ‘no’ firmly but politely. It will make your life in the office much easier. having the right tactics and a good stock of phrases at your disposal.
Here are some useful ones you can use next time someone asks you to do something unreasonable.
1 Make sure you have all the facts
Before you can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, you need all the facts. Asking for the facts also demonstrates a genuine interest and you cannot be accused of saying ‘no’ out of principle.
- Can you explain that to me?
- Can you give me all the details?
- Could you tell me exactly what you need?
- I need to know a little more about … .
- And what exactly do you want me / my boss to do?
2 Offer an alternative
Once you have got all the details, decide whether or not you can help. If you can’t, perhaps you can offer an alternative.
- I’ll look into it and see if there is anything I can do.
- I’ll have to think about it.
- I’ll tell her what you want and see what she says. Let me get back to you later.
- I’m not sure if I can help. Let me call you back in a couple of hours.
- You might want to try asking Roberta. She may be able to help you.
- Perhaps you could come up with some ideas yourself then get back to me.
3 Say ‘no’ calmly and firmly
Whether you are speaking for yourself or on behalf of your boss, say no calmly but firmly. Appeal to the caller’s common sense. Make sure your tone of voice and body language (yes, even on the phone!) are assertive. Avoid overusing the words I’m sorry; remember, the request was unreasonable so it is not you who has to feel sorry.
- I’ve looked into the matter. I do hope you understand that I can’t help you.
- I wish I could help you. Unfortunately I can’t take on any more projects until I’ve finished these jobs.
- I’m sure you’ll understand that this is not something I can help you with.
- My boss feels this is not a good idea right now.
- John sends his very best regards but also his regrets that he can’t help you.
4 Refuse to be coerced
Some people refuse to take no for an answer, especially if they know your boss personally. They insist on being put through to your boss and will not accept no for an answer.
You may have already heard threats like:“Mr Miles is a good friend of mine and he will be very angry if you don’t put me through.” “Who are you, anyway?” “How dare you Put me through straight away or there will be consequences!” Don’t let them frighten you.
If you are sure your boss doesn’t want to speak to the caller, tell them. Calm them down by offering to take a message or by trying to find someone else to help them.
- I have informed him, and he nows you have a problem. He would help you if he could. He said he’s sure you will understand.
- I’m sorry but I really can’t put you through right now. If you’d like to leave a message I’d be glad to pass it on.
- I’m sorry but I really can’t help you. But I’d be glad to take your phone number. When would be a convenient time to call you back?
- I have very clear instructions not to put anyone through right now. Would you like to leave a message?
- I know it’s hard for you, but I do hope you understand that it’s pointless calling again.