Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Learning When and How to Say No

I must admit, my initial research of this subject was entirely self-serving. I am guilty of superhero syndrome. You may know it as well. The symptoms are an unrealistic idea that you can take on anything that comes your way and a severe allergy to saying "NO." This inability to say no has led me to lose sleep, neglect taking care of myself and my own priorities, resentment of those that I am helping, and a plate full of stress and frustration.

Let's examine some of my, and many other people's, reasons it is so hard to say "NO." In addition, let's look at how we might politely, gently, and diplomatically say "NO" once in a while.

A genuine interest in helping other people
I am a kind and generous person who genuinely enjoys the opportunity to help other people. However, what I need to work on is not letting someone else's lack of preparation become MY emergency. Here is how I am going to try to respond to this situation.

"It is not a good time for me right now, as I am backed up with other projects. How about if we make an appointment to speak next week, so we can both give the project our full attention and not be rushed."

Fear of missing out on opportunities
For many of us, we fail to say no and over-extend ourselves or agree to something we really don't want to do because of the fear of closing a door. I suggest we analyze the opportunity that is being presented against the cost at which it will come. In the future, if I am presented with an opportunity that has too great a cost for its potential benefit, here is how I will try to respond.

"This sounds like an exciting opportunity and I would love to work with you when my schedule permits. I can not participate, but I hope you will stay in touch so we can work together on future projects."

Fear of being rude
Sometimes, I say yes simply because I do not want to hurt someone's feelings or burn a bridge because of rejection. Saying "NO" does not always mean you are being rude or even disagreeable. There does not always have to be a disagreement, especially when you are honest with the person who is asking. I think next time I will try this response.

"I can't help you at this time because . . . "

Notice that I did not include the words "I'm sorry" in any of my responses. Don't apologize for being busy and having priorities, revel in your success! I will check back in and keep you posted on my progress at saying no. Send me comments about how you go about saying no and avoid over-extending yourself.

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