Managing expectations – the power of “no”!

I just got a call from someone who wanted to talk to me about something that I really wasn’t interested in!

First I said I was busy. This was true enough, but really it was just an excuse. I knew deep down I wasn’t going to find time for this thing because I didn’t want to do it.

So of course, saying I was busy gave the idea that this was the problem. Most people aren’t busy all the time, so the obvious next question was “can I call you back later?”

If I’d said yes, I’d only be delaying the inevitable phone call that I didn’t want, or stringing someone along because I knew that ultimately I wasn’t going to agree to the request.

So I said it would be better if they didn’t because I didn’t want to do the thing that they were asking of me. This saved both of our time because they wouldn’t be calling me again!

Harsh? Maybe! But it’s also fair because I managed her expectations. I showed that I respected my time and hers.

Sometimes a polite “no” is better than a “maybe later” so that everybody knows where they stand. We’re all busy. We can all find a bit more time for the things that are important to us. How does the saying go? If you want something to be done, ask a busy person!

So the next time you use the excuse that you’re too busy, maybe ask yourself if you’re really too busy, or you just don’t want to do the thing! If it’s the latter, it might be better to find a way to get that across respectfully so the other person knows where they stand instead of giving them false hope that you might not be busy later. It will save you time too because the other person won’t keep trying to see if you are a bit less busy!

It’s good to be open to new opportunities, but sometimes this pressure to always say “yes” can end up putting us under more pressure, and being less honest with ourselves and others.

The lockdown has brought that home. I’ve heard people saying “I didn’t really want to agree to meet up online after work, but what else have I got to do? We can’t go anywhere, so they know we’re in”.

But we all have choices. We all have responsibilities, whether that’s to others, to our businesses or to ourselves. It’s ok to be a bit less busy. It’s ok to say “no thank you” if you just don’t fancy something or if the answer is never going to be a heartfelt “yes”!

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    Author: Kirsty Wolf

    A language enthusiast who is passionate about life-long learning, effective communication, and teaching English. Also speaks German, Romanian and Turkish, though not all at the same level!