According to the news this week, financial firms should take more time to listen to vulnerable customers and make products easy to understand. Customers’ anxiety levels could rise owing to automated phone lines or a “computer says no” response, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said. I totally agree with this decision as I’ve been on the receiving end of such calls myself. The FCA suggested firms create specialist teams with the power to make flexible decisions for these people as our ageing population will make these issues far more relevant.

Now the computer saying ‘no’ is one thing but saying ‘NO’ in the workplace –  be it face-to-face or on the telephone- can be very difficult for some people.

Some are afraid of the aggressive reaction that a ‘NO’ might bring. Others fee that saying ‘NO’ makes them look unhelpful.

On the other hand, some people are just unrealistic about what they are able to deliver and don’t realise they SHOULD say ‘NO’.

So if you find saying no difficult, these top 5 tips will make things a little easier:-

1.Do it sooner rather than later

Sometimes it’s better to say ‘NO’ immediately rather than to say ‘YES’ and then let someone down later.

Often we say ‘YES’ reluctantly when we should be brave and say ‘NO’ from the outset. By saying ‘NO’ straight away, you give the other person a chance to find an alternative solution.

Saying ‘NO’ may be uncomfortable in the short-term but in the long-term it gives everyone the opportunity to be a winner.

2.Remember your rights

You have the right to say ‘NO’ to things that you can’t – or simply don’t want to do.

Sometimes it’s true that saying ‘NO’ will have negative implications: be that hurt feelings, seeing someone struggle or disciplinary action.

Sometimes saying ‘NO’ will have positive consequences: you won’t be overworked, inconvenienced or doing something against your personal values, for example.

The fact is, it’s your decision. Make a choice and take the consequences.

3.Be clear

Use clear, unambiguous words to avoid confusion. Often, when we wish to let someone down gently, we pad out our refusal (or even disguise it) by using lots of neutral language.

Neutral language includes vague words such as ‘hopefully’ – possibly – try – might – maybe.’

The problem is that this can be interpreted in many different ways and both parties come away with a different understanding. It’s far better to use clear words to avoid any confusion.

4.Don’t over-apologise

Whilst it’s sometimes good to apologise for saying ‘NO’ don’t overdo it!

Providing a reason for your refusal may help the other person to understand it, but going over the top looks unprofessional.

Stick to the facts, be sincere and remember that our needs are just as important as the other person’s.

5.Suggest alternatives

Often, people will ask you to do something simply because it’s the easiest solution to a problem they have or the first response they have thought of.

Remember that they don’t necessarily need you to do the things they have asked you to do – they simply want their problem solving.

When you’ve turned down their request take time to find out a little bit more and maybe together you can come up with an alternative solution which is just as good – if not better – than if you’d agreed to the original request.

Want to read the rest of the Top Tips for saying ‘NO’?

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