Ah...wise words from the Queen Bey herself, “I aint sorry”. I came across an article that got me thinking. I hardly say ‘no’. Some might even say that I am a people pleaser. No matter if it’s work related or personal, I do not say ‘no’ often. And if I do, I always follow it up with some excuse. Why is this?
It is because of fear.
Remember the Suited and Savvy post about the 16 personalities? Well according to my results, ESFJ’s are often too selfless and vulnerable to criticism. I feel as though saying ‘yes’ to everything will avoid conflict. And who doesn’t want that? But this can be exhausting. We all like to envision ourselves as the 21st century superwoman, but we simply cannot do everything. And that requires us to say ‘no’ sometimes.
I kicked off 2017 by putting this new found realization to the test. I thought everyone was going to hate me for saying 'no' but welcomed the idea as an interesting challenge, so I chugged on. For a week straight, I was going to say ‘no’. The rules were simple:
1. Say ‘no’ to things I have little interest in doing
2. Don't second guess why I said ‘no’
3. Don't provide an excuse after saying ‘no’
4. Say 'thank you' instead of 'sorry' when I truly feel it's necessary. (For example: When running late to meet a friend for coffee, say ‘Thank you for being patient and waiting for me’ instead of saying ‘Sorry I am late!’)
I'm not going to lie, this was really hard at first! It's a bit ironic how hard-wired we are against such a simple word when it's probably all we said as toddlers! I said ‘no’ to lunch plans and ‘no’ to staying longer at a social event that I didn’t really to be at in the first place. I found myself wanting to make up an excuse or feel bad for my decision. But by midweek, it got easier. I said ‘no’ to the cable company trying to sell me a promotion. I said 'no' to adding a cookie to my meal order for only an extra $1.99. I even said 'no' to taking a flier from a stranger on the street! Haha.
But I realized I was missing a key part of this exercise. It was easy for me to say ‘no’ to strangers, and I quickly got over saying ‘no’ to social events, but I had not yet said ‘no’ at work. Luckily, I had a 1 on 1 meeting with my supervisor at the end of the week where I could flex my new found muscle.
When you understand that you deserve good things, saying 'no' to the bad things becomes so much easier.
I entered my meeting knowing that I only had to say ‘no’ if she asked me to do something I had no interest in. During the meeting, I thought “This is going great! I haven’t had to say ‘no’ once!” I spoke too soon. Towards the end of the meeting she talked about the job interviews she was conducting. Previously, I facilitated an interview session and felt as though I was not benefiting or providing significantly impacting value. She asked if I would like to continue in this role. I took a deep breath, centered myself, and said “No thank you." I added that I wasn't able to provide adequate responses to the candidates' questions and wasn't getting anything out of being involved with the interviews. (Well I think that’s what I said. I may have blacked out for a second.) She looked at me, blinked a few times, said ‘okay’, and moved on. Did I provide an excuse as to why I didn’t want to do something? Not exactly. I provided a reason, and I still stood my ground. And most importantly, life moved on.
'No' is not a dirty word! There's an art to respectfully declining. 'No' is a word that allows us to make room for the things that really matter to us. As we grow professionally, we'll learn to sift through the things we have to do, the things we want to do, and the things that don't provide any value. Sometimes we don't have the option to say 'no' and that's okay. But when given a choice, make one and don't be sorry!
I’m still practicing saying ‘no’. It’s not something that is going to come overnight. I challenge you to practice it too. First to little thing (like the cable company and the annoying person at the gym selling protein powder) and then to people you know and situations at work. Let us know how it goes! Leave comments about your experience below.