No means yes and yes means no!?

Who doesn’t know this type of situation? The to-do list is already full to the brim, and then the colleague comes and asks (quite nicely) whether one could also take over task xy.

Sometimes it’s appropriate, you even feel like saying yes and taking over the task. But how often do we not just say yes because we basically don’t dare to say no?

We forget that, more important than the actual no is the way in which we give it.

We can:

  • say yes: if we really mean it. Because our counterpart will feel an inwardly growling yes. And if he cares, he will resent the fact that we let him feel that we don’t really want to do the job.
  • conditionally accept, by tying our yes to a condition that is important for us, such as a later delivery of the results or a task in return.
  • Say no. You read correctly, just say no with confidence – without explanation or justification. Of course, you should be able to answer why you cannot do it now, but please do not do it without being asked!
  • Ask for time to think it over: “Not right now, may I let you know by tonight if I can do it?” …this as a beginning, to find courage for the second or third point mentionned above.

When you say NO to something you do not want, you are always saying YES to what you really want!

Setting boundaries is an important leadership skill, which is worth taking on early and will pay off in the long run!



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The original version of this article was published in German.