When I started my first corporate job after graduate school, the worst word that I could possibly ever imagine saying aloud was of the two-letter variety: n-o.
I used to think that saying no to requests from my manager, peers, friends or family would make me seem less than supportive, and I sincerely wanted to be perceived as collaborative, reliable and capable. Years later I realized that my ability to prioritize and realistically assess my bandwidth to take on more work or give of my time was critically important.
A good friend also recently (and wisely) reminded me that the secret to gaining more hours in the day is to say no.
Let that marinate for a minute.
How comfortable are you with saying ‘no’ instead of ‘yes’? If you have trouble, you aren’t alone.
Researchers from the University of California in San Francisco found that individuals who have difficulty saying no are more likely to experience burnout, stress and depression.
This is clearly a worthy endeavor.
Here are 4 ways that you can say no without feeling guilty, disengaged or selfish:
1) “I can do this instead of that.” Propose an alternative means to contribute if you can’t do what is asked of you.
You may still be able to take on a much needed task on a different schedule or with a smaller scope.
2) “Here are some alternative resources that might be useful.” If you can’t directly provide assistance, think of other sources of information (e.g. people, information sources, etc) that can be leveraged in your absence.
3) “Let me give it some thought and get back to you.” Take some time to consider the request and truly determine whether you can contribute at a level that will add value to the project.
You are more likely to make an objective assessment without the pressure of being put on the spot. Be sure to follow-up to share your thoughts and if you can’t participate, state that clearly.
4) “I’ll need to revisit my priorities to see what is possible.” Examine your current todos and get help to figure out what you’ll move down on your list in order to take on a new assignment.
Make it clear that something will have to give and figure out exactly what that means.
You won’t always have the opportunity to graciously decline every additional work item or personal request that comes your way (there will absolutely be times when you are ‘volun-told’ to do something).
You can, however, give careful thought to each situation to evaluate the consequences and speak candidly about what you can and can’t do. Be clear, definitive and respectful as you communicate your position.
Ultimately, saying no to the things that you can’t take on means truly saying yes to the commitments that you’ve already made.
Engineer Your Bliss Challenge: Just say no.
What do you need to say ‘no’ to right now? Please share your comments below.
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