No is a complete sentence – tips on saying ‘no’

Do you struggle to say 'no' and end up feeling overwhelmed and stressed out?

Do you ever feel overwhelmed that you’re juggling so many priorities that you’re never going to be able to get everything done? Do you ever say ‘yes’ to something and then immediately regret it? Does every incoming request feel like another thing that you have to fend off?

Being busy has become a badge of honour, a signifier of success, a feeling of being important, indispensable and in demand. But if you really are ‘so busy’, it’s more likely that you’re not saying ‘no’ to enough.

We get stressed out as we reprioritise and struggle to make deadlines. Sometimes we say ‘yes’ because it’s an exciting new opportunity, sometimes because it feels easier to say ‘yes’ and worry about it later, and sometimes we misjudge how long a task might take.

Humans are social animals and our survival is based on helping each other. We have evolved and thrived on reciprocity. In addition, for many people, our need to say ‘yes’, is often rooted in childhood. As children we are rewarded for doing as we’re told and pleasing parents, grandparents and siblings, in school were rewarded for studying and passing exams to please teachers. Many people avoid saying ‘no’ because they worry it’ll be seen as rude or unhelpful, or concerned that saying ‘no’ will impact on relationships or even career progression.

No wonder it can be hard to say ‘no’.

Being able to confidently and clearly say no within your professional life matters, whether it’s turning down work, or saying ‘no’ to your boss or our colleagues. Saying ‘no’ can help you to look after your own wellbeing, manage overwhelm and focus on the activities that will help you to make the most impact. Here’s five tips to help you say ‘no’.

  1. Remember you are important. It’s up to you how you choose to spend your time. When we say ‘yes’ to too much we wear busy as a badge of honour and we can become overwhelmed. In order to do our best work and in order to help others we need to look after ourselves first. And one of the best ways to do this is to say ‘no’.
  2. Before making a decision. First consider why you are saying ‘yes’. Is it that an opportunity seems too good to miss, or the opportunity can help you avoid something else that is too difficult or you don’t want to let somebody down. When you have an instant response to ‘yes’ take a step back and think through what your reasons for saying ‘yes’ are. It can be helpful to talk it through with a friend or colleague before you make your decision.
  3. It’s OK to think about it. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them within a specific time frame. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. The person then knows you’ve considered their request seriously, and is also less likely to keep attempting to persuade you if your answer is ‘no’.
  4. Imagine how you’ll feel if you say ‘yes.’ In his book The Power of No’ entrepreneur and author James Altucher writes: ‘When you say yes to something you don’t want to do, here is the result: you hate what you are doing, you resent the person who asked you, and you hurt yourself.’ This is why, before making your decision, it can be helpful to imagine how you’d feel if you said ‘yes’. If you imagine saying ‘yes’ and feeling excited, it’s very different from imagining ‘yes’ and feeling resentful or overwhelmed.
  5. Remember.No is a complete sentence. It does not require an explanation to follow. You can truly answer someone’s request with a simple no.’ Sharon E. Rainey

If you’d like to learn more about the power of saying ‘no’  so you can say ‘yes’ to more of the things that bring you joy, join me and those excellent people at Not9to5 at our networking event at 6pm on Thursday 13 May. We’re excited to hear from our guest speaker Joseph Trodden sharing his tips for saying ‘no’ as well as opportunities to chat to other people over a drink or two all from the comfort of your sofa. Grab your ticket here.

We’re also focusing on saying ‘no’ at the Lucidity Network with training materials and an expert webinar in May. There’s more information on everything you get when you join the Lucidity Network here. 

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