Taming the monkeys – How to say “No” in 5 simple steps

If you are a little bit like me, you have a lot to do and probably not always enough capacity to get everything done that you want to get done. No matter whether you are a manager, a team leader, the person who stays at home to take care of the family, a project leader, someone running an NGO — most of us have multiple tasks on our plate and we are faced with the challenge of being around other people who also a lot to do. Our friends and colleagues will ask us to do things, we really should say “no” given all the things we have to do. But somehow, since were nice people, we find ourselves saying “yes” only to regret it moments later.

Here is a short self coaching process that can help:

Pause and say: “Let me come back to you” to buy some time to make a decision.

Ask yourself: “Suppose I say yes, what will be better?”

Asking yourself this question will help you gauge whether you really should help your friend, family member or colleague or whether you are not actually hindering their growth. Of course, if it is really in everybody’s best interest that you help the person who is asking you, by all means do. Reasons could be that you have the competences that it takes and the asking person clearly does not, or the issue clearly falls into your remit. If there is no good reason apart from a general sense of charity move on to step three.

Brainstorm: “Suppose I say no, where else could the person get help?”

It is always easier to say no if you have someone who could help instead.

Reflect: “Can I use this as a teaching or coaching moment?”

If teaching the person would not take a lot of time, by all means do. Ask them whether instead of helping them by doing the task for them, it might not be easier for you to impart your knowledge so that they can carry out the task by themselves in the future. Before you start teaching, make sure to ask them what they already know about carrying out the task, so that you don’t waste time teaching something a person already knows.

If it is something that involves a computer, you can also film yourself carrying out the task (for example using “Loom” or “Camtasia” or another screen recording program and send the person the link to the video of how you carried out the task, so that they don’t have to ask you again.

If the person does have the skills and could theoretically take on the task, you might even coach: “If I wasn’t here, what would you do?” (This question works wonders to help teenagers develop basic household skills 🙂 )

Once you have developed your plan, call the person back and offer what you have to give: a solution, pointing them toward someone who can help, offering to teach them, or coach them.

Let me know your favorite tips to tame the monkeys! I’ll be sure to pass them on!

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