Just say “NO”

Don’t just palm people off – Learn to say “no” constructively.Getting to grips with saying “no”. 

Nowadays, we’re constantly told by self-help columns and lifestyle gurus to ‘live on the edge’ and say “YES”. Take the proverbial bull by the horns they say – seize life!

While this is all well and wonderful when we’re saying yes to a new high-powered job, a skydive or a six month sabbatical to follow our dreams and travel Asia, is “yes” really quite so liberating when we’re saying it to an extra presentation at work or when we know we’ll be taking on more than we can chew?

Saying yes is easy, but unfortunately it can leave us feeling overcommitted stressed and exhausted with just too much to do. To avoid this, we need to programme ourselves so that we’re no longer afraid of “no”.

The word “no” doesn’t have to be negative – yet this is what we have come to believe. In work especially we think we have more time than we do, we’re afraid we might miss an opportunity or we fear that saying “no” may make us appear insensitive or unwilling.

Contrary to these beliefs however, “no” is actually an incredibly valuable word, opening up more of your time to try new things whilst giving others the opportunity to take on the job instead. In addition, it also means activities that are a high priority to you receive the attention they deserve.

In situations where a simple “no” isn’t going to cut it for fear of upsetting colleagues or your boss, try out one of the following alternatives:

  • Offer an explanation
    If the individual doing the requesting understands why you have turned down the task, they will usually be more understanding. A simple, short and honest explanation should suffice, for example: “I wish could get that email done for you today but I actually have an appointment with a new client”.
  • Offer a conditional yes
    Agree to the sections of the assignment you consider to be do-able, but outsource the rest. For example: “I would love to start researching that topic for you but don’t think I will be able to commit to putting together the full report”.
  • Offer a trade-off
    This is useful when you have been asked by a manager or supervisor to complete something that will really push you to the limit, though it can also be useful with friends and family too. Before agreeing to anything, ensure the individual putting in a request knows that something else will have to become less of a priority. For example: “Ok, I’m happy to get this newsletter completed this week so I will put the other assignment you gave me on the back burner until it’s done”.

If you struggle to say “no” and are finding it difficult to strike a healthy balance between your work life and home life, a life coach specialising in this area could help you to achieve more harmony. For more information, visit our fact-sheet on work/life balance.

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Written by Emma Hilton
Written by Emma Hilton
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