How to Refuse Requests

closed please call againMany of us aren’t sure how to say no in a way that preserves the health of our relationships, so we either give a hit-and-run-no, or we say yes when we shouldn’t and then feel resentment.

Here’s a little formula for refusing a request:

1)  Start with a thank you.

2)  State that you’d like to help.

3)  BRIEFLY explain why you can’t do exactly what they ask.

4)  Offer something you CAN do.

5)  If applicable, provide information that might help to avoid this problem in the future.

Here’s how it might sound in a personal relationship context:

Thanks for keeping track of what time Suzy needs to be picked up tonight.

I’d love to leave work a little early to get her, and we have that department meeting this afternoon, which usually runs late. I’d hate to keep her waiting in the cold if I can’t get out of here on time.

Would you be willing to pick her up this time? There’s no meeting next Wednesday, so I will make sure to arrange my schedule so I can pick her up then.

Hey, how about if I grab some takeout on my way home tonight so we don’t have to worry about cooking dinner?

Here’s how it might look in a business context:

Thanks for letting me know about the extra data you’d like me to add to the briefing report.

I’d like to turn this around for you as quickly as possible, and I will be out of the office in a training all morning. I will get these revisions integrated and return the report to you by 3 pm at the latest.

I’ll be in training several mornings this week, and will check email during breaks. I will let you know that I’ve received your request and give you a time by which you can expect to receive the revisions. Typically it will be before 4:30 pm.

I appreciate your business, and look forward to hearing about how well your presentation goes!

How to Refuse Requests2016-11-23T09:38:48-06:00

How to Give Feedback

Croissant SandwichHere’s how to communicate a piece of feedback about something personal, such as the off-color jokes your partner told at the office party, or the short skirt your daughter wants to wear to her new waitressing job, or the thank you note that your ten year old still has not written to his grandma.

First tell the person you have some brief feedback to share and ask if they’d be open to hearing it.

Then ask them when a good time would be for the two of you to talk in private. This part is really important — embarrassment definitely interferes with trust and open communication.

Serve up a feedback sandwich:

brief feedback in an I-message
invite them to share their response
acknowledge their perspective
compliment/good wishes

Here’s how it can sound:

I think it’s terrific that you got a job!
I’m concerned that you might receive some
uncomfortable attention from customers if
you wear that skirt to the restaurant.
What do you think about that?
Sounds like you want to wear it today
and see how it goes so you can make
an informed decision next time.
Thanks for listening, and I hope
your shift goes great today!

And of course feedback sandwiches should always be garnished with a big helping of respect for the other person’s right to do with it as they wish.

Hope this helps!

How to Give Feedback2016-11-23T09:38:49-06:00

How to Avoid Painful Misunderstandings

He says: Are you sure you want dessert?Chocolate Cake Slice with Raspberries
She hears:  Haven’t you had enough? You should eat less.

He meant:  If we leave right now maybe I can still catch the last quarter of the big game on TV.

When our feelings get hurt while communicating with loved ones, we are typically reacting to what we think the other person meant rather than to what he or she actually said.

However, since meanings are frightfully easy to misinterpret (and most of us are not very good mind-readers), the next time you start to feel angry, defensive, or hurt by something someone has said to you, try responding like this:

I’m not sure what you mean by that…

in as gentle and neutral of a tone as you can.

By putting your reaction on hold until you are clear about the other person’s true intention, you’ll be able to derail unnecessary conflicts before they drain time, love, and energy from your relationship.

How to Avoid Painful Misunderstandings2016-11-23T09:38:49-06:00

Don’t Make This Mistake When Customers Contact You

This tip might seem ridiculously simple, but you’d be shocked at how often it doesn’t happen.Hand Holding Telephone Receiver

Make time in your schedule every single weekday to return phone calls and respond to emails from current and prospective customers.

Even better, schedule TWO times to do this each day, one just before lunch for messages received in the morning, and one just before close of business for messages that come in during the afternoon.

Responding very promptly, even if all you do is acknowledge that their communication was received, sends a powerful message: I value your business and I am here to help.

If you need additional time to gather information or research your response, I recommend closing the communication loop at the end of the day with something like: I am working on your request, and will get back to you tomorrow with the answer to your question.

Don’t Make This Mistake When Customers Contact You2016-11-23T09:38:49-06:00

Scorekeeping Belongs in Sports, Not Relationships

Football ScoreboardThe idea you owe me causes a great deal of suffering and conflict in relationships. Obligation is never a satisfying motivation, whether you are on the giving end or the receiving end of the resulting action.

Our minds often keep score in our relationships, and then try to guilt ourselves or others into keeping the tally even.

But our hearts simply want to give, and hold no expectation of reciprocity.

Try conducting yourself as if no one owes you anything, and see how your relationships change.

Even after all this time
The sun never says to the earth,
“You owe Me.”

Look what happens with
A love like that,
It lights the Whole Sky.

– from The Gift – Poems by Hafiz by Daniel Ladinsky

Scorekeeping Belongs in Sports, Not Relationships2016-11-23T09:38:49-06:00

Don’t Make This Mistake in a High Conflict Joint Custody Situation

MP900387517In high conflict joint custody situations, the less you need to negotiate with your ex, the better. So do your best to honor the parenting time schedule exactly as it was outlined in your written agreement.

If something comes up that requires you to be away from home during your parenting time, don’t try to negotiate a change in the parenting schedule. Instead ask a family member or friend to care for your child, or hire a beloved babysitter.

You can avoid a lot of stress and conflict by refraining from asking your ex to be flexible in order to accommodate your needs.


Don’t Make This Mistake in a High Conflict Joint Custody Situation2016-11-23T09:38:49-06:00

How to Resolve Conflicts with a Two Part Conversation

coupleinconflictWhen emotions flare, clear thinking evaporates. And nothing triggers emotion like conflict.

So to take the pressure off, allow yourselves to divide your problem-solving conversations into two phases: information-gathering and brainstorming.

During the information-gathering phase, your only job is to understand your partner’s perspective and concerns.

Since you know you won’t have to solve anything, it will be easier to listen carefully because you won’t be mentally rehearsing your rebuttal while your partner is talking. Instead of a clever, convincing comeback, you should reiterate your partner’s concerns, and ask him or her to correct your understanding if your synopsis is inaccurate. Then switch roles.

Stay with this discussion until you both feel heard and understood. Then take a break, ideally for at least a day, and try to do something fun together before you start phase two of your discussion.

Start the brainstorming phase with each of you giving a brief summary of the other person’s perspective and concerns as you understand them.

Then get out your computer, white board or pad of paper and start jotting down every idea you can think of that could address both your concerns. Go ahead and get silly here if you want – laughter fosters cooperation!

Finally, go back through your list and pull out an idea to experiment with. Agree to try it out for a fixed period of time, and schedule another meeting to evaluate how well it is working. If the first idea does not address both parties’ concerns to your satisfaction, try another idea until you find one that does.

How to Resolve Conflicts with a Two Part Conversation2016-11-23T09:38:50-06:00

How To Deliver Bad News

Businessman Thinking on Steps“Bad news” can be somewhat of a misnomer at times — often situations that appear negative on the surface reveal silver linings and eventually result in positive changes. But the fact remains that it’s not fun to be the bearer of news nobody wants to hear.

Here’s how to make this painful task easier:

1) Break the news in private. This protects the other person’s dignity and spares them from embarrassment.

2) Ignore #1 if you are dealing with a potentially volatile person. In this case, delivering bad news in public, preferably in a high-energy, crowded location like a coffee shop or hotel lobby, may ensure an extra measure of self-consciousness that might keep him or her from flying off the handle and shouting or reacting physically.

3) Get right to the point, but issue a heads-up first:  I’m sorry to say that I have some bad news to deliver today. 

4) Deliver the news succinctly. Don’t pretend it’s not bad news, and don’t point out the silver lining. Don’t prattle on and on. Don’t blame them or tell them they should have seen it coming. Say your piece as objectively as you can, then become quietly attentive and allow them to speak if they wish.

5) It’s okay to say you are sorry if you are. “I’m sorry” does not mean that whatever happened is your fault, it’s simply an expression of sympathy. Avoid “I understand” because it’s impossible for us to truly comprehend anyone else’s personal experience. Even if we went through the exact same situation, our individual reactions are unique.

5) Answer their questions concisely. Save detailed analysis and explanation for another conversation. People don’t tend to remember much of what they’ve heard while in shock.

6) Give them time and space to process the news privately. Don’t hit and run, however. Let them know you’ll connect with them again later.

7) Initiate contact again in a few hours or a few days. Make yourself available (but don’t be intrusive) in case they want to talk about it.

How To Deliver Bad News2016-11-23T09:38:50-06:00