Learn how to say ‘no’-Publication
One of the major reasons for conflicts is the lack of skill to say ‘no’. Instead of a meaningful dialogue, we would make a rude refusal, or agree to a request which we cannot fulfil. But things can be different. Kira Golubeva, Senior Account Manager, BDO Unicon Outsourcing, communicates with a number of contact persons from various companies on a daily basis. As we requested, she told us about how to choose the right way to say ‘no’ to a client or a partner without negative effects for further cooperation.
Conflict management describes several options to say ‘no’ in an elegant manner:

1. The Hamburger Method

To respond to an awkward request, if a direct ‘no’ will inevitably lead to an argument (for example, a co-worker asks you to conceal from the management that he needs to leave work earlier), we offer an ‘information hamburger’ to the interlocutor.

Layer 1: Positive information

it is necessary to provide a person with positive information, neither artificial nor exaggerated. We speak sincerely, articulate the actually existing characteristics, and refer to specific actions.

- I understand the gravity of the situation and appreciate that I can rely on you, like when you prepared a report during my sick leave, but...

Layer 2: “Refusal”

We make a soft but clear refusal in the middle of the hamburger.
- ... I cannot fulfil your request.

Layer 3: Positive information

A new portion of positive information is on the top.
- I know that you won’t get offended, as you are a very sensible and kind person.

2. RRA - regret - reason - alternative

Here, what we should do first is to express our regrets about saying ‘no’, and then explain the reasons for it. At the end, we should offer another option of how to resolve an issue.

- I’m sorry that I can’t help you in writing a letter to respond to the client’s claim now. I have to submit calculation results to the customer right now. Please try to find a template of such letter in the regulations on disk S.

3. TASS

This is also an abbreviation for the technique: toughness - argumentation - strokes - advice.

A firm refusal is necessary to prevent the opponent’s further attempts to beg for sympathy.

- No, we can’t give a 50% discount.

We substantiate our position so as not to offend the opponent with a refusal.

- No, we can’t give a 50% discount, because your project will be unprofitable for us then.

Smooth over the refusal by showing affection to the interlocutor.

- No, we can’t give a 50% discount, because your project will be unprofitable for us then, but, regarding our long-term cooperation, we will be happy to give you a 5% discount.

At the end, provide the interlocutor with a recommendation.

- No, we can’t give a 50% discount, because your project will be unprofitable for us then, but, regarding our long-term cooperation, we will be happy to give you a 5% discount. Please find the standard costs, client feedback and information on completed projects on our web-site.

4. ‘Broken record’

This technique includes three steps:

  • clear definition of one’s position; 
  • calm and emotionless articulation of it to the interlocutor;
  • repetition of the position in respond to every objection. 

The position should be well-developed and clearly formulated, so as to leave no doubt with the interlocutor with our ‘no’. One should avoid using excessive figures of speech. Briefly state the reason to say ‘no’ and apologise, if we regret the impossibility to agree with the demand. The main difficulty of this technique is to be friendly, avoid an emotional breakdown and be committed to the position.

Client: “We require that you send us the reporting till the end of the day today.”

You: “We understand your request, but, according to the agreed-upon procedures, the reporting shall be provided tomorrow at 6:00 pm. Reducing the timeline will require extra resources, which will lead to extra costs for your company. We cannot send you the reporting today without agreeing upon such costs.”

Client: “What extra costs do you mean? We pay for your services timely and shall receive all the documents timely!”

You: “Certainly, but, according to our procedures, the timeline for providing the reporting is tomorrow till 6:00 pm. If you need to have the reporting earlier, we can use extra resources, which implies extra costs. We are sorry, but we cannot send you the reporting today without agreeing upon such costs.”

Client: “We order a package of services and you have to meet us halfway! Provide the reporting for us immediately!”

You: “If we don’t comply with the agreed-upon procedures, the principle of outsourcing is violated, while we would like to comply with the regulations, which envisage that the reporting should be presented tomorrow till 6 pm. We are extremely sorry, but, if we don’t agree upon the additional charge for expeditious preparation of the reporting, we can’t present the reporting today.”

Client: “All right, what is the cost of preparing the reporting today? Or let us discuss the possibility of sending it to us before lunch, rather than till 6 pm.”

One can reduce the risk of conflict situations through the correct use of these techniques. I wish you agreeable interlocutors and internal harmony.




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