I used to think that my employer and co-workers liked me best when I was agreeable. Volunteering or agreeing to take on new tasks and responsibilities was met with a positive response, and for a while I tried to be everything for everyone. I enjoyed being helpful and learning new skills, and I was usually thrilled to work on a special project or help a co-worker meet a deadline. In the end, however, I was burned out, over-stressed and resentful. Like everything else in life, my work-life needed balance, and I needed to balance saying yes with saying no.
Once I realized I needed to say no, I found it difficult to change my ways, and my co-workers were resistant to the change. They had come to depend on me as their go-to gal, and they were confused and frustrated when I suggested they follow the steps in the manual to clear a paper jam or adjust the settings on the copier.
Though it was challenging to change my behavior, it became easier to say no. I found that I accomplished more, and met all of my deadlines, when saying no appropriately. I felt less stressed and exhausted at the end of day, and, surprisingly, my co-workers valued and respected me- even when I said no.
Here’s what I have learned about saying no:
1) “No” is a complete sentence.
It is not necessary to justify or excuse saying no, though it is often tempting to do so.
2) “No” is self-loving word.
Saying no allows me to take care of myself. I am better equipped to do my work well when I say no appropriately.
3) “No” says yes to my responsibilities, my success, and myself.
4) Say “no” and mean it.
If necessary I can take time to make my decision to say no. It is appropriate to respond to a request by saying, “let me get back to you”, or “I’ll think about it”.
5) “No” is not the end.
I may be able to help in some other way, or I may be able to help with original request once I have completed my own work.
6) Saying no appropriately includes asking, “does this person need my help or want my help?”
If someone is asking me for something they can do for themselves, I may not really be helping anyone by agreeing to take on their responsibilities.
7) Saying “no” appropriately means I am honestly unable or unwilling to agree to a request.
Throughout my career I learned that I do my best work when I practice good time management, prioritize, and focus on my work and my responsibilities first. It is difficult to meet my goals, and my supervisor’s goals for me, when my focus is scattered and my day is consistently interrupted by unnecessary requests. In some situations I may be able to do all of my own work and agree to all requests being made of me, but this is not always the case and I have more to gain in saying no than saying yes.