How to say “no” to your big boss
By Atip Muangsuwan
“The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes.” Tony Blair, Former Prime Minister of the UK.
One of my executive clients showed up in our coaching session with a coaching topic: “How to say no to a minister (without causing a hard feeling)?” My client’s big boss happened to be a minister (political leader) of a ministry. So, my client was seriously concerned about saying no to his requests. That’s why she brought her big concern into our coaching session with a hope to find some strategies to say no to the minister.
So, we began our coaching session by exploring deeply into her concern. My client said she didn’t want to say no to the minister’s requests because she didn’t want to cause a hard feeling to happen between them and that might jeopardize her career growth. Usually, my client hardly says no to anyone because she doesn’t want to hurt their feelings. She wants everyone to be happy. That’s her own nature as well.
Then, I helped her explore into the pros and cons of saying ‘YES’ and saying ‘NO’ to the minister’s requests. After that, I invited her to do a role play. I asked her to be herself and I played a role of the minister. We used a real situation and story to do this role play.
After we finished with the role play, I asked her to share her key insights that she got from the role play.
She shared her key insights as follows:
- She might visualize the negative outcome and be too worried about the consequence that might not even happen when she says no with good supporting reasons. So, she should visualize the opposite!
- She needs to build confidence and leadership in herself in order to be able to say no, not only to the minister, but also to other people in her life like friends, colleagues, family members, cousins, relatives and acquaintances.
- She will build her confidence by a frequent practice of ‘saying no’ with her close friends and her inner-circle people first before expanding to outer-circle people and eventually to say no to the minister in real-life situations.
My own insight from this coaching session is that… “You can say no to anyone in the world if you have the guts to say it and you say it artfully.”