Stressed Out and Burnt Out? The Cure: Learn to Say No! by Marcia Zidle

Who hasn’t been guilty of overbooking themselves between their personal and professional lives?

But often instead of a feeling of elation for making everything “work,” we feel stressed out and burnt out. Peter Bergman, in his Harvard Business Review blog,  shares seven practices to help you say a strategic “no” in order to create space in your life for a more intentional “yes.”

1.  Know your no.
Identify what’s important to you and acknowledge what’s not. If you don’t know where you want to spend your time, you won’t know where you don’t want to spend your time. Before you can say no with confidence, you have to be clear that you want to say no.

2.  Be appreciative.
When people ask for your help it’s usually because they trust you and they believe in your capabilities to help. So thank them for thinking of you or making the request/invitation. You can leave the door open by saying I can’t do it now, but get back to me at a specific time – that’s only if you mean it..

3.  Say no to the request, not the person.
You’re not rejecting the person, just declining the request. So make that clear. You can also explain the reason. Maybe you’re too busy. Maybe you don’t feel like what they’re asking you to do plays to your strengths. Be honest about why you’re saying no.

4.  Be as resolute as they are pushy.
Some people don’t give up easily. That’s their prerogative. And your is to be just as pushy as they are. You can make light of it if you want (“I know you don’t give up easily — but neither do I. I’m getting better at saying no.”).

5.  Establish a pre-emptive no.
We all have certain people in our lives who tend to make repeated, sometimes burdensome requests of us. In those cases, it’s better to say no before the request even comes in. Let that person know that you’re hyper-focused on a couple of things in your life and trying to reduce your obligations in all other areas.

6.   Be prepared to miss out.
Some of us have a hard time saying no because we hate to miss an opportunity. And saying no always leads to a missed opportunity. But it’s not just a missed opportunity; it’s a tradeoff. Remind yourself that when you’re saying no to the request, you are simultaneously saying yes to something you value more than the request. Both are opportunities. You’re just choosing one over the other.

7.   Gather your courage.
If you’re someone who is used to saying yes, it will take courage to say no, You may feel like a bad friend. You might feel like you’re letting someone down or not living up to expectations. Maybe you’ll imagine that you’ll be seen or talked about in a negative light. Those things might be the cost of reclaiming your life. You’ll need courage to put up with them.

What causes you the most grief –the enemy out there (an unexpected crisis, others not meeting deadlines) or the enemy within (poor planning, procrastination, lack of assertiveness)? I would imagine for many of s it’s the enemy within – our inability to say no and make it stick.

Management Success Tip:

Even when you’ve said yes, you can change your mind and renegotiate. Find a substitute, change the deadline or scope of the request or whatever might work to keep you in good graces. Remember, things change – projects pushed up; a staff member is out for a month; or a new boss unexpectedly arrives. Life changes and so priorities change. So don’t get locked into I have to do it because I said yes.

How often do you say yes when you mean no? Is it more often in your professional or personal life?  What”s the enemy within that’s stopping you from saying no and making it stick? Do you want to get better at it? Let’s talk.

Do you want to develop your Management Smarts?

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