Stop saying yes, start saying no

I don’t like saying no to people. I like to help people, I’ve built a career partly off my work ethic – ‘no’ does not come easy to me. Here are three things I’ve learnt over time which help me consider whether saying ‘yes’, or avoiding saying ‘no’, is always the right answer.

Most people don’t mind hearing “no” – friends especially get over it (even the big things you may have to say no to). At work – explain why you can’t do something or offer people a choice. It wasn’t until I started doing it that I realised that a reasonable explanation is usually enough – as long as people understand your reasons.

Delaying the word “no” makes it harder to say – If you do have to say it later, often any alternative options for the person you are saying it to will be less (eg cancelling last minute does not give that person any time to alter their plans). It is worse for you and your friend / colleague (delete as appropriate) in the long run. That being said, if you are like me, someone who says “yes” in the moment – make a commitment to confirming later that day or week and take some time to check your priorities and confirm back. Sometimes I have found this easier to do when not in front of the person asking.

Is it what YOU want? – If you keep saying “yes” and cram everything in – firstly, are you enjoying it? Is this what you wanted to be doing with your time? Is this where you can make a difference? Even in work you will be asked to do things that don’t match your objectives or priorities. Ask yourself this question – for me the “no” often comes across loud and clear. Need some help at work making the decision – ask your manager to help make the decision (I have found this effective as often they have an interest in making sure you meet your objectives – they may also have a broader view of priorities across your organisation).


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