Try this one way to say “no” that’s scientifically proven to be more effective

The start of a new year is often associated with a number of tasks, meetings, and important decisions for business owners. Perhaps you’re considering hiring someone new, or trying some new marketing opportunities?

Whatever it is, the plate of an SME owner is always full, and making it fuller by agreeing to extra lunches or afterwork drinks may lead to work stacking up and stress taking over.

But saying no to various activities can leave a feeling of guilt, or make you come across as the office curmudgeon. But what if there was a better way to say no?

According to researchers from Boston College and the University of Houston there is. And it involves swapping the word “can’t” to “don’t”.

Read more: Five tips for negotiating

The study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research back in 2012, took two groups of people and directed them to exercise 10 days in a row, telling one group to say they can’t miss a day of exercise, and the other to say they don’t miss a day. At the end of the study, the group told to say “they can’t”, exercised for one day, while the group told to say “they don’t” exercised for eight days out of 10.

The study found saying “I don’t”, instead of “I can’t” or “no” helped individuals get jobs done and drove goal-directed behaviour. Saying you don’t go for drinks on a Tuesday night is much easier than saying you can’t, and will make you look like less of a Grinch.

Motivational speaker and entrepreneur Mel Robbins told Success Magazine last month that saying no is “one of the most painful things I have to do in my day-to-day life”.

“Whether you’re saying ‘I can’t do it’ to another person, or ‘I can’t do it’ to a piece of cake, there’s room for negotiation,” Robbins says.

“There’s huge power in you not only saying no, but you learning how to say ‘I don’t’ when you say no.”

The theory can also be applied in your everyday life as a motivational tool to get undesirable jobs done, according to the research.

“We argue that a refusal framed to connote a sense of empowerment and control is likely to be effective in self-regulation”, the researchers said.

So give it a try. You can’t do that phone call at 9.00am? Try “I don’t do phone calls before breakfast”.

Watch Robbin’s interview below.

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