Say no rude

Art of denial: "If you keep saying yes, you exceed your limits"

ZEIT ONLINE: Whoever says yes in the end has more work, more responsibility, more stress. Why is it so difficult for us to say no, Ms. Becker?

Linda Becker: The reasons that keep someone from saying no can be many. One is afraid of appearing selfish, the other is afraid of loss or of not meeting expectations. Also, quite a few have been brought up to believe that saying no can quickly come across as impolite.

In my opinion, people can be divided into three categories: the notorious no-sayers, the notorious yes-sayers, and those who can weigh up. The notorious yes-men can usually absorb a lot, put themselves in other people's shoes and recognize their needs - only to have too much work on the table in the end.

ZEIT ONLINE: What if we always say yes?

Becker: Those who always and constantly say yes, exceed their limits. On the one hand, this burden is too much in the long run, on the other hand, a lack of know-how can prevent satisfactory implementation. After all, it's not just about getting a job done, it's also about getting it done successfully. However, the "hardworking bee" does not always have the relevant knowledge.

If you want to get out of this vicious circle, you should first analyze for yourself which yes-man traps you are falling into. Because mostly these situations always run the same.

ZEIT ONLINE: What are the classic yes-traps?

Becker: A boss who acts according to the scheme, "I absolutely need your help here, otherwise I won't make it" hopes that this employee will fall into the "helplessness trap". If he wraps his employee around the finger with compliments, he uses the "flattery trap". And he goes one step further and tries his coworkers with statements like "What would I do without you?" to ensnare, he hopes to fall into the "indispensable trap". Incidentally, these are often also pitfalls for managers, which their employees are just as happy to use. And before the supervisor knows it, instead of delegating the task, he himself has the work back on the table.

ZEIT ONLINE: If there is too much work to do, those affected usually don't really have the choice to say no. Which strategy makes sense here?

Becker: Saying no successfully takes courage and always has something to do with your inner attitude. For this, it is essential to be able to realistically assess yourself and the situation and to be able to substantiate your attitude with good arguments.

Under no circumstances should those affected react emotionally and with utterances such as "Why me again?" counter. It is much more important to present your sound arguments confidently and to answer in the language of the interlocutor. Anyone who communicates in a solution-oriented manner and offers alternatives does not have to say yes. And anyone who needs time to think, obtain information or research other experts should also ask for it.

ZEIT ONLINE: How do I throw feelings of guilt overboard when colleagues or the boss make me feel that my no is selfish?

Becker: You have to say goodbye to a bad conscience out of self-protection. Provided that the distribution of work is generally balanced and that there is no emergency.

Whoever says yes should be aware that when in doubt, they have less time for their own topics. It is important not to fall into the justification trap here, but to be able to justify your no plausibly. Those affected should also keep in mind that the no to the thing applies and not to the person who is being rejected.