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Correctly saying "no" & setting limits: friendly, but determined!

To say “no” is difficult for many people. For different reasons: One doesn't want to disappoint anyone, the other wants to look good. Or you are - especially at work - afraid of negative consequences. But if you constantly half-heartedly say “yes”, they are usually even worse afterwards. It is therefore important to point out boundaries in good time - in a friendly but firm manner.

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Situations everyone knows

Almost everyone knows these typical situations in which one is asked for something and simply believes that one cannot say "no". For example if the Manager urgently needs to do something, but at the same time and just as urgently another job must be completed.

Who wants to risk being passed over for the next promotion or being on the hit list? So you choose the path of least resistance and grind your teeth to say “Yes”, although you know for sure that both can hardly be achieved at once.

The lesser evil with great consequences

This can have consequences: Anyone who always tries to please others will soon no longer be able to cope with their actual tasks well. In addition, the others quickly get used to the fact that the yes-man always does everything and rely on it. So over time it becomes more and more difficult to say "no".

But nobody can always do everything satisfactorily and that is the problem. Because people, according to a study of the RespectResearchGroup at the University of Hamburg, have certain ideas about how competent and respectable persons should be: namely, trustworthy, reliable and fair.

A clear no is always better!

However, the trust that others place in you is quickly shaken if you agree to take on a task and then fail to make it due to lack of time. Bosses and colleagues are then often more disappointed than if you had turned them down straight away and classify you as unreliable. So it's almost always better to do it from the start clear To say "no".

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This is also confirmed by personal trainer Tanja Baum, author of the book “The Art of Saying 'No' in a friendly way”: “Nobody can fulfill all the wishes of the boss or colleagues so that there is always sunshine - especially not in everyday working life. But those who take others seriously, put themselves in their position and provide good arguments as to why they have to refuse a request, will usually reap understanding. "

Consistent instead of rugged

However. The sound makes the music. A brusque rejection for fear of being persuaded to do something is usually just as wrong as a "yes" that is not meant seriously. Because other people always want to have the feeling that you are taking care of them.

It is important to consistently say “no”! But people like to evade if others have a request: "I would like to do that for you, but actually I still have to ..." Behind this is the wish that the other person will notice that one would actually rather say "No" and backs down by itself.

Half a “no” doesn't work

Unfortunately wrongly thought: Half a “no” does not work. Very few people can or want to read between the lines and interpret the uncertainty for their own benefit; the uncertain "no" is simply interpreted as an uncertain "yes": "It's great that you do that .."

Or the other one is upset because he realizes that one wants to talk out for sure. It's better to say it frankly and honestly that it does not fit right now - it is exactly this consequence that the other person will understand and respect.

Attention manipulation!

A half-heartedly worded “no” also harbors the risk of being manipulated: Other people then appeal to pity or assume selfishness in order to persuade the no-man to feel guilty, for example: “I've already done so much this week. Don't let me down. ”Or they are disappointed in the person:“ You are usually so reliable. But I will probably not be able to rely on you in the future ”.

Such arguments are supposed to put the no-man on the defensive and make him say “yes” after all. Even if it is difficult: staying friendly but consistently with your opinion helps best here.

Well argued is half won

Against manipulation, it also helps to back up your “no” with good arguments. Because this makes it clear that a request is not simply turned down arbitrarily, but that there is a good reason for it. Other people can then understand the "no" better. In addition, others have the impression that you care about them - this is particularly useful when dealing with bosses.

For example, anyone who shows his boss how full the schedule is or proves that overhauling could also have negative consequences for the company is convincing. The boss notices that the "no" is well considered and appreciates that the employee acts responsibly. Important: Do not lapse into whining or justify your own opinion, but always argue objectively.

The pitcher goes to the fountain for so long ...

The jug goes to the well until it breaks. Especially those who keep saying “yes” run the risk of reacting wrongly at some point because of being overwhelmed: instead of saying “no” in an objective manner, one suddenly becomes aggressive. Statements such as “Do your own stuff!” “I don't have time for this now” usually make bosses and colleagues even more offended - also because they couldn't count on such a violent reaction.

It is therefore better to signal in good time “To this point and no further” so that the other person immediately knows where the limits are. If it does turn out to be one Streit comes: It is essential to avoid generalizing accusations such as: "You always make your exaggerated demands ..." - the other person probably does not even know that he has overwhelmed you all the time.


In order to react so rationally, it is important that you and your reactions are exactly known. What is important is therefore an in-depth self-analysis: What triggers another person's request? Does the situation awaken any unpleasant memories? What exactly interferes with the question? What exactly causes the stress? Why can not you be left?

Maybe you can make your own pressure or your own time management is just bad and you can work on it. Perhaps the request of the boss or colleague is simply totally nonsensical, perhaps you have also not understood, what exactly is and can clarify exactly what is required.

Find compromises

The boss wants one thing, the employee wants something else. Bad luck, if the boss orders only authoritarian. But in many cases you can also talk to your boss, because usually it brings more when both together solve the problem.

In practice this means taking the boss seriously and putting himself into his situation. Look for similarities, not for differences, by showing the boss where common positions lie. Find possibilities for improvement and put the main focus of the argument, because then the boss has the feeling that one goes to him. Perhaps then together can be a better possibility.

Sell ​​the "no" positively

But authoritarian bosses can also be convinced: if you offer an alternative that is just as good or even better instead of a simple "No", you will win over the boss. It could look something like this: “Unfortunately, I can't do this job today. But colleague Müller is currently free. In return, I can optimally support him in his project because I know the topic very well. As a result, we all work much more effectively. "

Such proposals facilitate the work on the one hand. But even more: the boss sees that the employees constructively think about the good of the company and will appreciate this quality. However: Here too the sound makes the music. Anyone who offers such an alternative should always choose an optimistic vocabulary, which has a more convincing effect on others.

Preparation is everything

Sometimes the role behavior of saying “yes” has become so ingrained that the problem can only be solved with a fundamental, clarifying discussion about the distribution of tasks. However, you should be well prepared: The right strategy is important, and arguments for your overload should be collected.

Also good: practice the argument at home, so that it is not so difficult to stay consistent. However, one should also ensure a positive basic mood: Those who are internally agitated and aggressive or has accumulated frustration is in danger of overburdening the other with uncharacteristic reproaches.

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3 answers to "Correctly saying" no "& setting limits: friendly, but determined!"

  1. Marc says:

    Thank you for publishing your text, you are absolutely right, saying no is something that many people today can scarcely find. Therefore, such texts are extremely useful!

  2. Leo says:

    Really a fabulous contribution, because you learn for life. In fact, quite a lot of people can not set limits.

  3. Wilhelm Brammell says:

    Finally, a text that deserves to be read. Thanks for that!

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