Do You Find It Difficult To Say No

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Do You Find It Difficult To Say No

Do You Find It Difficult To Say No

By Mark Wager

The typical person that ends up being selected as a Leader is someone who has a very good work ethic. They work hard, they take on extra responsibilities and they are always willing to help out and while these qualities are very desirable they can create issues for leaders if they are accompanied with the inability to say no. The more capable a person is the more likely it is that they will be given more work. I have never been in a management meeting when the topic of who gets the new work is raised and people decide that the employee that is struggling gets more work. It's always the star performer so if that’s you then the better you are at your work your reward is usually more work and if you are not naturally inclined to say no then you will get caught in a spiral that gets worse and worse until you either find yourself buried under work or you eventually react in an over emotional manner, all of which can be avoided with the simple two letter word “no.”

Why some people struggle to say no.

We are the sum of all our experiences and beliefs. Everything  we experience in life both good and bad makes us who we are today and influences how we react to certain situations. People who struggle to say no to things have commonly had positive experiences with being the go-to person and saying no has had negative connotations. It's  been viewed as being disrespectful particularly when talking to someone more senior which has led to a fear of upsetting or disappointing people. While this is very commendable it can also encourage people to take advantage of their bosses by not doing their own work because they know their bosses will do the work or the Boss who delegates all their work to their  employees instead of doing it themselves. 

Change your mindset 

The first piece of advice I give to Leaders who are struggling on how to say no is to stop saying that they don’t like saying no. The most important  leader we have is ourselves and what we tell ourselves is incredibly important so if we continue to tell outsides we are bad at something then that detrimentally impacts our performance. Just  imagine having a Boss that  tells you everyday that you are not good enough, how would that feel? Well that is exactly what you are doing when you tell yourself you are bad at saying no. Instead tell yourself the truth which is you don’t want to upset people. You will be surprised with what difference this will make. All significant change starts with changing the story you tell yourself.

It’s clarification not conflict. 

The next step is to remember that saying no is clarification and not conflict. When  at work if someone wants to give you extra work you can’t always stop them but you can provide them with clarity on the consequences of their request. When given extra work all you have to do is to explain if you do that work then other work will be delayed or not completed and ask if they are fine with that. This works because in most circumstances people judge the workload of others by either saying  yes or no. If people say yes then they assume that they have time to do the work even if the person receiving the work thinks it’s obvious that they don’t have the capacity. What is obvious to one person is not obvious to someone else so when you provide clarity you are in fact helping people which is what you want to achieve.

Don’t say maybe when you want to say no 

The former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair once said “The art of leadership is saying no. It’s very easy to say yes”. Leaders, especially the successful ones understand that they have to do what’s right and there will be times when doing the right thing is difficult. It's  easy to say yes but ask yourself is the easy life you have gained in the short term worth the difficult life you have made for yourself in the long term? If you know the difference between right and wrong then you know when is the right time to say no, you just need to stop hiding behind these excuses you have created for yourself and find your inner courage to stop saying yes, stop saying maybe when you want to say no.

Set boundaries 

A good technique is to create a set of boundaries for yourself, have a clear understanding of what you will do and what you won't, what behaviours you will accept and what you won’t and whenever anyone asks you to go beyond those boundaries then your answer should be an automatic no, not a maybe, not I will think about it but a clear and respectful no. This won’t be easy if you are used to being a yes person so start practicing with your close friends and family, people who you know won’t be upset. If you start saying no to some things, start small and build up slowly and before you realise it you will have built yourself a better life.

Steve Jobs turned Apple into one of the worlds most successful companies by learning the art of saying no and I will leave you with one of his most famous quotes that summarises his approach.

‘It’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important” - Steve Jobs, founder of Apple

Posted: Monday 16 December 2019


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