Groundbreaking ideas and research for engaged leaders
Rotman Insights Hub | University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management Groundbreaking ideas and research for engaged leaders
Rotman Insights Hub | University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management

Saying 'no' is a superpower; here's how to hone that talent

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Vanessa Patrick

Picture this: it’s 4:30 on a Friday afternoon, and you’re prepared for a lazy weekend in —  pizza, movie marathon, pjs. It’s been a busy week, and you deserve a night of vegging out on the couch. But then your boss messages you and has an urgent request: The person scheduled for this weekend’s on-call shift has called in sick; can you please take over? You’ll get paid, but it means monitoring your phone and your computer. You say yes, and bid a goodbye to your weekend of fully disconnecting.

Or perhaps your colleague found an error in their code, and can you please, please, please help them find a fix? Or family wants to stop in for an impromptu dinner. Or a neighbour needs a bit of help with their yard work. Pick whatever circumstance fits best for you —  but the end result is probably the same: that lazy weekend —  pizza, movie marathon, pjs —  slipping away…

People, it turns out, are really good at saying yes, even when they don’t want to. Professor Vanessa Patrick joined the Rotman Visiting Experts podcast to talk about her new book, The Power Of Saying No: The New Science Of How To Say No, That Puts You In Charge Of Your Life. On the episode she shares her framework for saying "no" effectively, tips and tricks for identifying and dealing with pushy askers, and more. 

Three take aways from the episode include: 

  1. We need to practice saying no. We often do everything we can to avoid having to say no, so when we're put on the spot and need a quick decision, actually saying the word "no" becomes very difficult. 
  2. Short-term excuses (I can't go out tonight; I don't have a babysitter) and personal policies (I don't go out on weeknights) are both effective at helping you get out of a committment, short term. But excuses invite the request to be asked again. Personal policies on the other hand, speak to who you are and aren't as a person, and are much harder for the asker to get around. 
  3. Pushy askers often don't take no for an answer. Take the time to indentify their tricks — they ask for an answer immediately, preventing you from taking the time to think about your decision; they ask face to face when it's harder to say no; they guilt you into doing something you don't want to. Find the solution that works for you and don't be afraid to push back. 

Give the whole episode a listen above. 

New episodes of Rotman Visiting Experts are released monthly on SpotifyApple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts. Desktop listeners can also tune in on Simplecast.

Would you rather read than listen in? Check out the full transcript of the episode here

Missed the first season? Give it a listen here

Vanessa Patrick is the associate dean for research and a professor of marketing at the University of Houston's Bauer College of Business and author of The Power of Saying No: The New Science of How to Say No That put You in Charge of Your Life.