September 21, 2014

How Can I Say "No" Diplomatically?

Saying "no" in most cultures is an art. There are surely times when your boss or US client has asked for (or demanded!) something that was not possible to do. The video below suggests a few tactful ways to approach the no, save face, and maintain an amicable relationship.  


Using Questions to "Give them Power" 
There are many reasons for using questions. In the video, James suggests to use a question to say no. Using questions shows the requestor you have heard and understood the requests and are now asking them for their priority. 

For example, the US client has asked your team to do task X by Friday, forgetting task Y is also to be completed also. We could use a variety of questions to get them to choose priority: 

Simple Question: 
"We can surely do X by Friday, however, Y is already on the to-do list. Which one is most urgent?"

More Complex Question:
"We can surely do X by Friday. In our previous call we discussed also finishing Y by Friday. The team is about half done on this. Would you like us to put Y on hold and finish X instead?"

A Bit More Complex:
"We can surely do X by Friday. In our previous call we discussed also finishing Y by Friday. The team is about half done on this. We see that there is some overlap in X and Y. Shall we discuss this overlap and prioritize which tasks of X and Y we can finish by Friday?"

Using BUT to Contrast to the "No"
In a previous blog post, I noted how many native speakers have a psychological feeling that whatever comes after the words but, therefore and however is "negative" or contrasts to a "no" answer. This technique was combined with the questioning tactic above when asking: 

"We can surely do X by Friday, however, Y is already on the to-do list. Which one is most urgent?"

The tactic James suggests to use in the video is to:
  1. Acknowledge the offer (repeat the offer if possible) and/ or thank them
  2. USE but or however to connect to the next phrase
  3. Give them an out, so they don't look or feel bad
To break up our "no" answer into this formula, we have: 
  1. We can surely do X by Friday,
  2. however
  3. Y is already on the to-do list. Which one is most urgent?
See the video for more examples.

Jennifer Kumar is a corporate cultural communication specialists providing targeted communication solutions to Indians working with American counterparts. Contact her for more information. 

Related Posts: 
Apologizing to Americans 
Saying no to longer meetings 

Networked blogs link: http://nblo.gs/105vrZ

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