“That’s impossible. There’s nothing I can do.”

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Almost nothing annoys me more than hearing those sentences. Sure, there are instances when the answer really is “impossible.” (Can you raid the corporate treasury this afternoon? How about some insider trading?) But no one likes to work with someone who isn’t willing to help solve a problem. Here are some tips on what you could say instead of: “That’s our policy; you’ll have to talk to my manager.”

1. Acknowledge someone’s frustration: “That does sound annoying.” “No wonder you’re upset.”

2. Show willingness to help: “Let’s see if we can figure this out.” “I’m sure we can come up with something.”

3. Be honest about your limitations: “Our system won’t give us access.” “I have a meeting at noon.”

4. Make sure the person is satisfied: “Will that help you for right now?”  ”Please let me know how it turns out.”

I have some other tips, but it’s not my job to tell them.

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