“Sorry, we can’t do that…”, “You can’t do it that way – you have to follow procedure…”, “No, our policy is…”

One of the most common frustrations shared by people around the world is when policies, procedures and protocols get in the way of getting things done. Even more frustrating is the person who appears far more intent on enforcing these things than on actually resolving an issue. All too often we hear about seemingly cold, intransigent gatekeepers ‘hiding behind policies.’

Every organization, of course, has some policies and procedures that are non-negotiable. And, in all fairness to the individuals who must uphold them, an unyielding stance is often very necessary. What makes us angry, though, is not so much that someone is adhering to a policy, but that the person appears to simply not care about us. He (she) is so focused on saying ‘no’ that he doesn’t make the effort to find a pathway to ‘yes.’

The next time you are in a position where you have to take a firm stand with someone, try this:

1. Listen
Find out why it is important to them that you make an exception.

2. Empathize
Humanize the situation, and let him know that you genuinely want to help.

3. Tell them what you can do
Imagine a nurse, for example, who has to tell someone that she can’t visit a friend in the hospital. She could say, “I’m really sorry Ms. Smith, but he can’t have any visitors at the moment. What I can do, if you would like however, is to let him know that you’re here, and pass on a message from you…”

4. Offer alternative solutions:
If you know of an alternate way to get something done, or someone else who may be able to help out, then communicate this. Get creative.

Don’t get caught in the trap of just saying “No” to people. It’s the easy way out, and it just begs for conflict. Make the effort to find something that helps the other person get what they need. It may not always be possible, but the process of trying has a huge payoff.

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