4 Situations Where It’s OK To Say No (And We Share How!)

While we’re big fans of saying “Why Not?” at I Want Her Job, we also realize that with all we balance on our plates, we also have to learn how to say no. It’s an essential part of ensuring the projects we dedicate ourselves to are worth our time. It helps us stay on budget during a pricey holiday season. And saying no can also prevent us from committing a foul much worse: flaking out on those we care for, because we just can’t find it in ourselves to show up to yet another party/meeting/event this week.

Saying no has its benefits, but it can be hard to say—especially for us out there who tend to be people pleasers and like to make everyone happy. Consequently, we turned to etiquette expert and former Leading Lady Diane Gottsman, who shares her advice everywhere from The Today Show to Real Simple and The Huffington Postthrough her business The Protocol School of Texas. Her words of wisdom will help you get out of four very specific—and oftentimes very sticky—“just say no” situations.

The Situation: Your boss is giving you yet another project, on top of your already too-full workload of covering for an open employee position, multiple special projects and oh yes, your day job!

Diane’s Advice: Prioritize

I would suggest you say, “I’m happy to take on this project. However, I’d really like to set up a time to discuss the priority of the projects already in progress. I’d love your input on what you would like to see completed first, in order from first to last priority.”

The Situation: Your colleague is asking you to donate to another charity fundraiser and a family member is also asking you to buy products from your nephew’s school fundraiser at the same time. You’re feeling charity fatigue.

Diane’s Advice: Gift With Your Heart

Of course I Want Her Job readers should donate, but perhaps you’d rather donate to a cause close to your heart and not purchase cookie dough and wrapping paper for a fundraiser. One should never feel obligated to donate to a fundraiser or organization at the office. First of all, there should be an office policy and the best-case scenario is that this policy states that there’s no solicitation or fundraising.

Often however, the boss is the one soliciting items for their school-age children. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “I’m sure it’s a great cause, but I donate to the juvenile diabetes association (filling the blank in with your own special cause) and I’ve maxed out my allotted dollars this year.” While buying a chocolate bar may build goodwill, buying multiple buckets of cookie dough and 30 reams of wrapping paper is most definitely not a good idea. There has to be a limit. It’s up to each individual to set reasonable boundaries.

The Situation: You already attend more meetings than you can manage and you have to build time in your day to work on your projects. But, that means saying no to a meeting invitation and that makes you uncomfortable.

Diane’s Advice: Be Honest

The best way to say no to a meeting that’s not necessary for you to attend is to be up front and say something to the effect of, “My time’s better served working on a pending deadline, since I’m not involved in the logistics of this meeting. If you feel it’s important I attend, I will, but this does not directly affect anything I’m working on. My time really would be better spent finishing up the three projects I have due by Friday.”

The Situation: A decision is made, but you don’t necessarily agree with it …

Diane’s Advice: Say Something

In a polite, professional manner, it’s your responsibility to speak up when there’s something you disagree with or feel is not be in the best interest of the company. Assertive versus aggressive is the way to go. There’s nothing wrong with simply stating, “Jon, I disagree with the direction of the Smith project. I feel that it’s a duplicate effort for the three of us to be working on the same checklist. Wouldn’t our time be better served to split the duties and meet Thursday afternoon to follow up?” State your reasons in a professional manner. Communication in a respectful, non-confrontational manner is the key.

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