The most popular New Year’s resolutions are “exercise”, “read more books”, and “save money.” But, as a developer, you could promise yourself to learn to say no in 2020.

Balys Kriksciunas, CEO of Hostinger, offers some tips for you on how to say no and benefit out of it.

The importance of no

Before learning to say no, it’s essential to understand the advantages of refusal.

As a developer, you usually don’t come up with things to do. You get tasks out of someone else. The problem is that people who give you assignments, sometimes don’t understand the volume of them.

They might want tasks to be done in unrealistic terms, or they might ask to do several projects at once. Or ask for a specific implementation, that wouldn’t be reasonable.

Kriksciunas says: “Every no has a yes behind it. When people say no to an unreasonable schedule, they say yes to the higher quality results. When they say no for the usual way, they say yes for the creativity. When they say no for the overtime, they say yes to their families. It’s important to see all the yes behind those no’s.”

Top tip: just say no

The first tip is obvious: just go for it and say no. When you can see that the situation is unreasonable, there is no need to be too diplomatic about that.

The important part is to be specific. When people are afraid to say no, they come up with various reasons for it but don’t mention the real ones.

If you can see that you wouldn’t have enough time for an additional task, say exactly that. Harvard Business Review recommends describing your workload and the “projects on your plate” by saying something like, “I would be unable to do a good job on your project, and my other work would suffer.”

Let them share their thoughts

Sometimes you can understand that the client idea is truly a no-no right from the beginning. But don’t hurry to say no too soon. Sometimes people don’t understand what they are asking, listen to their concerns instead of orders without interrupting.

The Muse warns: “If you stop him there, he’ll think you might not get it. As he speaks, listen for key concerns he’s mentioning.”

When you get all the details, you can say no to unreasonable orders. But you can show understanding by addressing clients’ main concerns and suggesting alternative solutions.

Pick your battles

If you get your tasks not from the clients directly, but from your manager, you should pick your battles before saying no. Saying no can be good for you, but it shouldn’t become a habit.

Your no’s have to be reasonable and not too common.

Angela Bartels from Assembla suggests: “Before you say no to a request, make sure you really need to.”

In addition to that, she offers to amplify all the times when you already say yes. “Instead of “okay,” emphasize your affirmation with extra positive words, such as, “Yes, I can definitely do that.”

This way, you’ll have better credit to say no when you feel like it.

Offer to pick out of two

When clients have unrealistic expectations, you can suggest them picking one option out of two. This way, you are not saying “no”. And you give clients the feeling that they are making the decision. Even though you were the one who created this option.

Medium wrote an example of a company that develops applications in a period of six weeks. One client asked for a chatbot implementation in addition. That would take the entire six weeks if they have agreed.

Instead of doing both tasks hurry-scurry, they suggested two options: the chatbot or the CRM.

The client decided to implement the chatbot in the future.

The best part is that the client saw it as their own decision because the team let them choose instead of saying no.

A question back

This tip is similar to the previous one, but instead of suggesting two options, you give a different question back.

Inc shares an example: “Let’s say a supervisor is asking you to take on several tasks. You might say, “I’m happy to do X, Y, and Z; however, I would need three weeks, rather than two, to do a good job. How would you like me to prioritize them?”

This way, you are not even giving a chance to reject your no, but you give a chance to decide on other conditions.

Sense of we

This tip is more like a trick. When in need to say no, say it with the pronoun “we”.

Research shows that the pronoun “we” makes people feel more positive about the information they hear. Instead of saying no and making you look like an opponent, make this conversation about collaboration.

Rather than saying “No, I can’t do that”, present it as a shared problem: “If we’re trying to meet our goal, this isn’t the best way for us to do it.”