Do you find yourself saying “yes” at work when you really want to say “no”? Is it because you don’t want to risk your reputation as a dependable, you-can-always-count-on-me professional? Perhaps it’s because you worry you’ll look like you’re not a team player if you say no to your boss when you disagree with his project plan or strategy. Or could it be you don’t want to appear rude to a coworker who asks for your help on a project?
For many, and especially women, "no" can be the hardest word to say in the workplace.
And whatever the reason, saying yes when you want to say no can build resentment and frustration – and can even set you up for failure.
Learning to say no can protect your boundaries and can be a win-win for all parties involved (not to mention a boost for your mental health). Learning to effectively flex your no muscle will not only help you communicate honestly and respectfully, it’ll also help you develop your assertiveness, prioritize your projects, boost your confidence and character, preserve your well-being, and grow your career – while still ensuring a win-win outcome for you and others.
When you learn to say no in a skillful, diplomatic, and gracious way, you will also gain respect from others. You will not fear backlash because of the thoughtfulness, character, and trust you will exude. Whether you’re turning down a promotion because you must take care of aging parents or saying no to a volunteer opportunity because you promised your family you’d spend more free time with them, you will undoubtedly gain the respect and understanding for your “no” response. You explain the reasoning behind saying no, yet you express interest in the promotion in the future when your other commitments aren’t in conflict with the situation. Chances are that your boss will understand and appreciate your openness and commitment. You will likely get that promotion when the time is right, and you will be able to do the work without added stress or guilt to your day.
Imagine if we all learned to say no without the guilt, pressure, or passiveness. We’d be happier, healthier, and more productive in our workday. Incorporate these strategies to develop your skills to help you from saying yes when you want to say no.
When saying no to a coworker, ensure your communicating clearly with appreciation and kindness. You’ll want to make sure the recipient fully understands your no and doesn’t feel rejected or upset. For example, if you have a work friend who asks you to lunch and you regrettably say yes because you don’t want to be rude, you’re doing a disservice to yourself. You start to feel resentful because, for example, you prefer to run an errand on your lunch break or work through lunch so you can leave the office early to watch your child’s soccer game.
Sharing the reason for your no and offering an alternative day is an approach that will gain favorable response from him/her while allowing you to stick to doing what’s right for you. Saying something like, “Jill, I’d love to lunch with you but today is not a good day. I plan to work through lunch so I can watch my son’s soccer game. Let’s look at our calendar and find a time that will work for the both of us.” By saying no clearly, effectively, and graciously, both parties feel respected, and your friendship remains intact.
Communication is the language of leadership, especially when you convey your message assertively. When you speak in an assertive manner, you are expressing thoughts, opinions, feelings, attitudes, and rights openly and honestly. You are standing up for yourself, calm, and in control, all the while respecting others. Assertive communication allows you to achieve a balance of getting what you need with respect of the needs of others. It’s a win-win!
There are wonderful benefits when choosing to be assertive. You’ll feel less stressed by acknowledging the other’s feelings or desires while openly sharing yours and finding the best solution for the situation. You’ll gain trust, and your confidence will grow, because you are brave to stand up for yourself and are in control of what you say.
When speaking assertively use ‘I” phrases when delivering your ‘no.’ For example, “I am unable to work over the weekend, because I have family commitments. I am more than certain I will get my share of the work completed by end of the week.” This confident approach says you can depend on me while not upsetting family plans.
No one likes a bully or someone who’s controlling, piling on the guilt. Always refrain from speaking in a mean, harsh, or sarcastic manner. Not only will you gain a reputation as uncollaborative (and that’s being polite), but your career will also spiral in a downward fashion fast. Remember, saying no is all about compromising, not taking. Maintaining respect from start to finish with a result that brings fulfillment to both parties is the optimum way to go.
Setting boundaries should not be looked at as a luxury. It should be a priority. Respecting your limit is easier said than done, but when you practice self-care regularly, you’ll find an inner peace that will make your mind, body, and soul sing. You’ll understand that saying no is a healthy choice.
If you find self-care has been sitting on the back burner for too long, then chances are you’re feeling emotionally, physically, mentally, socially, or spiritually spent. There is no one-size-fits-all self-care plan. Develop a plan that fits your needs. Take small steps to take care of you. Soon you’ll start to incorporate more self-care activities that will make you thrive in a confident, assertive, meaningful, respectful way.
Contact Polished today to enhance your soft skills for professional and personal success.
Welcome to the ASAP Circle, a community platform for peer-to-peer conversation on trending topics, professional challenges, and shared experiences. We even have designated spaces for weekly Tuesday Coffee Breaks.