No is a complete sentence and so often we forget that.
– Susan Gregg
I’m a people pleaser from way back and I’ve always wanted to be in the thick of things, so when people asked me to be a part of something or to do a task – my first answer was YES!
At the beginning of my career, saying yes helped build my capability in spades and also increased my visibility. And my career benefited from me responding this way.
However at some point, saying yes all the time set some very unrealistic expectations. I was seen as the go-to-girl and in some respects I cultivated this profile as knowing what was going on at all levels helped me in my role as an Ops Manager. However, this behaviour affected my professional profile and increased my frustration level as at times I know that I was being used.
When you’re in the career building phase, or you’re new to an organisation, we may feel that saying no will backfire on us, labelling us as not wanting to be part of the team or that you’re being difficult.
Knowing when to take something on is a great skill and we all need to practice saying no.
Take a breath
I’ve found that taking a deep breathe allows my brain’s pattern of wanting to please the other person to be circumvented.
Yoga devotees and medical professionals know that focusing on the breath helps us reduce the build up of stress in our mind and body.
It’s important to understand exactly what is being asked of you before giving an answer. Questions can include:
- What is involved?
- Are they able to quantify how much time is involved?
- What is the priority and importance?
Once you have a better feel for what is involved, you can then consider if you have the time, skill set, knowledge etc. to participate.
A trick I’ve employed with the person asking is to advise that I have a number of other priorities and that if I take on this new one, I will need to drop one of the others and ask them which one it will be. This is an especially helpful process if the person asking is the same person who allocates all your other tasks.
If you can’t take on the request, be polite but firm. Ensure that your tone and body language reflects what you’re saying.
Asking for help is not always an easy thing and professional relationships can easily be damaged if you’re unable to keep your personal thoughts out of your response.
Additionally you don’t want people thinking “you’ll change your mind” if your response came across as wishy-washy.
Tools and Coaching
During my last corporate gig, my team and I found that we were regularly being asked to answer the same types of questions. This interrupted daily activities and took them away from value add activities that I was trying to implement.
Tools like an Intranet, Wiki or even a paper document can be a great way to overcome situation like the above. I created a Wiki with an FAQ to the questions the team answered on a daily basis. My team members could then point to the Wiki whenever they received a question that we had answered in the Wiki.
At times, we’re being asked to help out due to what I call the ‘lazy
factor’. Either they are too lazy to look it up themselves or perhaps we think it’s easier and quicker to do it ourselves. Unfortunately all you’re doing is creating a rod for your own back.
Check out Michelle Loch’s blog on how coaching conversations are a great way to assist individuals to build new habits when they just want the answer.
Tools such as these help individuals to become accountable and resilient and can assist in the resetting of expecations.
Most people are reasonable when they approach you and if you have to say no, will accept your answer. As adults, we’ve been groomed to say yes, so channel your inner child and where appropriate say no!
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