Many of us find it hard to say “no” in our day to day lives and it can be a particular challenge in the work place, where people are often eager to please and don’t want to appear inflexible. However, saying “no” isn’t about being any of those things; it is about creating boundaries and being clear with ourselves and others about what works and doesn’t work for us.
Do you feel that you can’t say no at work? That you are always taking on too much? Do you regularly work late to stay on top of your workload?
If saying “no” at work is a challenge for you, start by saying no to small requests. You can then build up your “no” muscle and work your way up to saying no to bigger requests in time. Here are a few ideas to help you on your way:
Give Yourself Time
When someone makes a request of you and you are not sure if you can (or want to) do it, let the person know that you will check and come back to them, so that you are not answering on the spot. Most people would actually prefer a considered, honest than someone saying yes to everything and under delivering or being unable to deliver on the request. This might seem easier said than done if your boss is standing in front of you making the request, but it will get easier with practice, even with your boss! If you feel the need, you could even explain to people that you are trying to be more mindful about what you take on when you first start saying no. I have found that when you share your motivation for saying no, it is often inspiring for the other person, as this is an issue many people struggle with.
Change People’s Expectations
Have you ever noticed that some people are so unapproachable that others wouldn’t think to put too much upon them? I am not advocating that you become one of these people, but there is something to learn here if you are always feeling put upon. This is about cultivating assertive behaviors and being clear and honest in your communications. Learn to react differently and teach the people around you that you are not always the “yes person”.
Be responsible for your behaviors. No-one else can make you say yes to their requests. It might seem that way, especially if you have got into the habit of always being the “yes person” or if others try and make you feel guilty. You can say no and you are the only person that can change this behavior.
Give Yourself Permission
You are allowed to say no; you don’t have to be everything to everyone. If you are reading this article I am sure there will be areas of your life where you could benefit from saying no. Most people have at least one area, if not more! Give yourself permission to say no.
Offering an alternative solution is a good way to soften a no if you need to, although do make sure that the alternative offer works for you too and that you are not just offering something else because you feel guilty!
Drop The Guilt
Talking of guilt, we often stay stuck in unhealthy patterns around boundaries and saying no because we feel guilty or mean (for example). You deserve to be taken care of as much as anyone else. Drop the guilt and remind yourself why you are saying no.
Say no and mean it! You don’t need to be aggressive, just assertive. Stating your case clearly and politely is powerful. Over explaining will make you look like you have something to explain. You don’t. Practice direct and honest communication.
Saying “no” is a powerful tool; it can help you to increase your self esteem, take better care of your own needs and be clearer about your values and goals. It also makes saying “yes” all the better, as you know that you really mean it when you say it!
Bio: Jen Smith is a Life Coach and Mentor living in the UK. She has tried many career paths herself and now helps people achieve their goals and dreams. You can find her at www.jenmsmith.com.