Prioritize and Communicate

Weekly I/O#46

How to say no? Prioritize and communicate.

Podcast: Persuasive communication and managing up | Wes Kao (Maven, Seth Godin, Section4)

Saying no to people without making them feel irked is a gentle art. Lenny, the podcast host, talks about a 2x2 matrix of saying no: prioritize x communicate.

When someone gives us a task that is not on our plate, we could put the thing into our list to do and not communicate what we will do and where the new task sits in the priorities. We could also communicate and not prioritize it, like saying, "sorry I don't have time for this right now".

However, what we should do is prioritize and communicate. We prioritize it among our list and communicate by saying something like, "this new task is going to be third in my priorities. Does this seem reasonable to you, or would you agree that I do this sooner or later?"

Wes Kao also relates an experience of a priority trade-off. For example, when she asked the designer to design something for her, he would say something like, "Yes, I can design this for you. That means that the thing I was going to work on today, redesigning this webpage, will have to wait until later this week to be finished. Do you want me to re-prioritize this?"

For Wes, it felt like she was in control. This technique converted the conversation from being a: "you are/aren't a helpful team player" to one where the designer express the desire to make sure the right things get done first.

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