For many of us, it's very difficult to say no. We're asked to take on extra assignments at work and help colleagues and clients with projects that might be outside our official job description. We're asked favors by our friends, by our families; and sometimes even by our LinkedIn connections. And though it's nice to help, we can end up overburdened with tasks and responsibilities we're not passionate about.
Saying no is hard, but even harder is living the life you don't want to lead because you couldn't say no. So, a few years ago, I made it a New Year's resolution to learn to say no. And it's been an incredibly liberating experience. Here are the tips I've used and see how you can incorporate them into your life.
1. Recognize the legitimacy of saying no. It's OK to say no. I'll say that again: it's OK to say no! When we think about saying no, we're often focused on how our friend or colleague will react. How disappointed they will feel, and how bad that makes us feel. But how about you and your feelings... and your life? If you say yes to everything and everyone, you'll end up without the time or energy to do what you really love to do. And is that what you really want? So, instead of thinking about "no" as a bad thing, think about it as saying "yes" to you and your family and the other commitments you really care about. Frankly, if you say yes to the right things - to the things that you really care about and that are important both personally and professionally - it will feel much more legitimate and comfortable to say no when the time comes. Now doesn't that feel better already?
2: Find your voice. If you're not used to saying no to things, it's sometimes hard to actually find the words to say what you want to say. I personally like to make sure I thank the person making the request, and offer what feels to me to be a legitimate excuse. For example: "I really appreciate you thinking of me, but I've just got too much on my plate right now" or "Thank you so much for the invitation. I would love to do it/serve/get involved, but I just can't right now. I hope you will think of me again" or, simply, "I'm just not able to do this right now, but thanks so much." In the end, the key is to find what works for you.
3: Press pause. In the heat of the moment, it's especially difficult to say no. This is especially true for people you like or for causes you care about, but where don't have the time or resources to commit. So instead of having timing work against you, make time your friend. Don't answer right away. Buy yourself time to think about the request by thanking them for the opportunity, requesting some time to think about it, and even perhaps proposing a specific time to get back to them. Most people will understand this and you'll be able to buy time for yourself in the process.
Saying no is hard to do. But so too is burdening yourself with tasks and activities that you don't really have your heart in... and, as a result, constantly putting your true self on hold. So, use these tips to bring a little more "no" into your life. You'll be surprised how liberating it feels, and how much more productive you'll be.