How to reframe and feel empowered to say ‘No’.
As we feel the weight of the unravelling of a very volatile couple of years, and the holiday season approaching, how many of us have made the simple resolution to do less, simplify our lives,’ cut the clutter’, or in other words just learn to say ‘ No’?
Whether it’s organizing an event on behalf of a group, taking on a new assignment at work, or participating in a project, it’s important to learn to say ‘No’ if you wish to avoid stress and resentment to build up in your life.
So how exactly and when do we put this simple pledge into practice?
How familiar is this scenario? – you’re asked to do something you don’t really want to do or believe you have time for, but you would feel guilty if you said No. Guilty, especially if you have the personality preference of a hard wired desire to please and accommodate others. Saying ‘no’ is for self-protection it allows us more time, energy and able to feel more in control of our lives.
In the workplace, where partnerships or teamwork is essential, learning to say ‘No’ doesn’t mean you become uncooperative. Rather, it is recognizing your limits and being selective in what you choose to do.
As a reframe, view your ‘N0’ with the notion that you wouldn’t want to do a poor job by overwhelming yourself, or that you value your priorities and prefer not to detract from the truly important things in your life. So how can you say ‘No’ tactfully and without guilt? David Posen, in his “Little Book of Stress Relief” says if you do it appropriately, you don’t have to use the word ‘No’.
- Express your wish to help:
“I’d like to do that for you, but I’m not taking on new projects at the moment.”
- Give an explanation: “I have an appointment” or “I have another commitment.” You don’t have to get personal.
- Offer an alternative: “Unfortunately I won’t be able to do it, but I can show you how to do it.”
- Find someone else who can do the task: “I think my colleague/friend etc would be better for the job, and I know she loves to become involved in those sorts of activities”
- Admit your limitations: “I don’t have experience in that, so “I’m not comfortable I would do that well.”
- Offer to do it later “I can’t help you now, but I can certainly do it next week.” ‘what is the level of urgency? ‘
- Offer to do a part“I’d be happy to do this part for you.”
- Ask for the priority “I’m in the middle of several projects, which one would you like me to set aside to do this?”
- Give yourself time to think about it: “Can I get back to you? I’ll have to check my schedule” or “I’ve had a few things come up and need to deal with those first”
These are all simple and straightforward tactics to politely decline a request, however, an even more powerful and assertive way to say ‘NO’ is to smile and say: “No, but thanks for asking” without launching into the why.
Take the time to evaluate and come to terms with your limits: What you’re able to do, what you’re willing to do, and what you want to do. After that, give yourself permission to say No without guilt and find more time and joy to do the things that matter to you and your balanced life.
Adapted from an article by Elena Verlee