It’s mid-summer (already!) and I hope you are finding time for a summer break. Each summer I look for ways to create a re-energizing break. I also find that because schedules change during the summer (vacations, school’s out, teenagers social and work schedules, etc.) that there are more requests for my involvement in the agendas of others.
That’s why I wrote this month’s article “Why It’s Hard to Say No”. If I don’t set boundaries and say “no” occasionally, my summer agenda will be overridden by that of others. Whether personal or work requests, saying “no” can be hard to do.
On August 18 I’m starting a small group coaching circle on the theme “Handling Difficult Situations at Work”. In a group of no more than 8, you’ll receive individual coaching and learn from the experiences of others. Learn more about this series of coaching circles by clicking here or contacting me at Susan@WomenLeadingTogether.com.
Why It’s Hard to Say “No”
I was speaking with a woman recently who was bemoaning the fact that she had just taken on a new project. She didn’t have time for it, it required her to compromise upcoming personal plans and she didn’t really see any benefit to her career. However, when her manager asked for volunteers, the room was quiet. Finally, he directly asked her if she would take it on. Not being comfortable saying, “no”, she reluctantly said “yes”. Now she regretted it.
We’ve all been there – agreed to take on something that in our gut we knew we didn’t want to do. Learning to say “no” is a critical skill. Absent the ability to say “no” effectively, we allow others to impose on our time and agenda. Then we become resentful, stressed and grumpy. Our satisfaction, success and fulfillment become compromised.
Many business situations call for personal advocacy. Yet these four emotional hooks can keep us from saying “no” for ourselves.
We like to feel needed. It makes us feel that what we are doing matters. And it does. To a point. But business requests are just that – requests to take care of a business need. If we were to leave our job tomorrow, the company would live on.
What If’s: Fear of retribution. It’s the silent, “what if” that plays in our minds. That great philosopher, Mark Twain, reminded us of the futility of worry when he said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” We play the tapes in our minds about all the terrible things that will happen if we “just say no”, but when reality hits we discover that 99% of our worries were fears, not realities.
The Perfectionism Trap: Too often we hold ourselves to a standard no one can meet. We feel the need to do it all perfectly…even one flaw feels like failure. Maybe this is the need to prove ourselves. Maybe it’s because we don’t want to give “them” a reason to hold us back. But it doesn’t serve us well. In fact, if we can’t accept less than perfect – if we try to do everything – it will drain us. Projects will take too long. We’ll lose our motivation. We’ll feel guilty. Instead, let’s make conscious decisions on where to say “yes”.
Desire to please others: We want people to be happy. When you think about it, it’s pretty silly to think that we have within our power the ability to manage the happiness of others. “What if” I say “no” and it results in conflict? Reminder…see number 2 above re worry. It’s ok for someone not to be pleased. Let them sit with their displeasure and figure out how to react (maturely, we hope). Differences in views and priorities do not necessarily lead to conflict.
I recall a time when I was about to leave for a much-needed vacation. The day before I left my boss asked how he could reach me. I felt my gut wrench. I knew that if I had work hanging over my head, I couldn’t relax. I paused, and calmly replied, “I’m not telling you where I’ll be. I need this vacation and if it’s truly an emergency, my assistant will have the information. You can get it from her.” Taking a stand and making him take an extra step to seek out the information was enough to establish the boundary. He scowled and stomped off, but he never called, and it didn’t make a difference in my career.
You can learn to say “no” with confidence and peace.
If saying “no” makes you feel uncomfortable, or if it seems like a daunting and impossible action, then please join us starting August 18 for a small group coaching circle on the theme, “Handling Difficult Situations At Work”. Over a series of four in person sessions, one each month, we’ll tackle this topic as well as other situations that give us angst at the office. Click here to register or contact Susan@WomenLeadingTogether for more info.
Susan Hodge created Women Leading Together in order to provide seminars, workshops, and coaching circles to help career women move forward to create fulfilling careers. Visit our website at www.WomenLeadingTogether.com.