Everybody loves a team player. If a co-worker is in need of help, advice, or just a good old-fashioned favor, oftentimes, it’s in your best interest to offer your assistance. But according to new research pointed out by New York, lending a helping hand can at times be counterproductive, so much so that your own work might suffer as a result.
In a piece called “Here’s the Most Effective Way to Say No to Things You Don’t Want to Do,” writer Cari Romm discusses being the office “toxic handler,” a term psychologists use to describe “the one person everyone complains to.” In order to escape that role, Room points to a piece by Mental Floss writer Shaunacy Ferro, who suggests using the word don’t instead of no when turning down someone’s request for help.
Ferro based her observation on a 2012 study in the Journal of Consumer Research, which found that people are more “psychologically empowered” by using don’t instead of can’t. Ferro goes on to explain that using don’t is less definitive, thus allowing you to change your mind if the situation requires it. “Regardless of whether you’re talking to yourself or another person, ‘can’t’ suggests that you might want to do something, but aren’t able to,” she explained. “The implication is that in another set of circumstances, you could.” With I don’t, on the other hand, “there’s no room for debate. It’s a hard-and-fast rule that you set for yourself.”
For more ways to say no, read How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty, and let us know if you have any tips for letting people down easy.