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The Art of Saying “No”

by Celine on February 24th, 2008

Sometimes it feels flattering to be the go-to person for most tasks.  This shows that people think you’re responsible, dependable, and you deliver good work.  But what do you do when they give you too many tasks for you to handle?  What if they depend too much on you for most things?  If you answered “yes” to either question, you need to learn the art of saying “No”.

The Benefits of Saying “No”

  • You get to free up your time -  especially important if you feel overworked.
  • You can focus on the projects that are truly important or exciting to you.
  • Other people will have to learn how to accomplish some of the tasks they want you to do.  This will result in a more productive office environment for everyone.
  • You decrease any chances of people bothering you for the same request later.
  • Most importantly, you get to assert your power of choice and people won’t treat you like a doormat.

When do you say “no”?

  • If you won’t be paid enough for a project.
  • If you’d rather do other things with your time.
  • If you’re assigned to do something that is your major weakness.
  • If the project doesn’t excite you.
  • If, when assigned the project, you feel a big knot in your stomach and it’s not because you’re excited to start.

How do you say “No”?

Simple, you start with the word itself. If you need supplemental statements, you could use any of the following:

  • Sorry, but I’ve got a lot on my plate right now.
  • I don’t think I have the right background for that.  I recommend Jane because she’s had experience with those types of projects.
  • Sorry, I really can’t attend, but I can ask John to fill me in later.

Personally, this is a skill I have to hone.  I often get too much work on my plate, and I don’t even enjoy all of the tasks I’m assigned.  Basically, I’ve narrowed down the psychological reasons why I have a problem saying no:

  • People in a higher position pull rank when they see signs of hesitation or disagreement.
  • I’ve shown skill in such a variety of tasks that I’m asked to do things that go even beyond my job description.  Although this is good in some cases, no one has an unlimited source of mental and physical energy.
  • Most people assume that my “I can do it!” attitude towards many hard obstacles means “I can and will do everything!”

By saying “no” once in a while, you are training people to respect your time and energy.  If they’ve gotten used to you saying “yes”, then now is the perfect time to reverse the cycle.  What’s the worst that could happen?  People will learn to do some things themselves or adjust their resources.  Not bad for a worst case scenario.

Are you good at saying “no” to tasks that seem to have no value for you?

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POSTED IN: Workplace Wellness, Workplace hacks, Workplace pimps

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