The Art of Saying No
I’ve been finding myself saying “no” to people quite a lot recently. As a freelancer turning down work is scary.
What if they don’t ask me again? What if nothing else comes in? What if they offer the work to someone else, who’ll end up doing a better job than me?
However, now that I’ve started to say it, I’m finding it’s becoming easier.
So, what’s prompted this sudden ability to say no? At the end of last year, I had a huge chunk of work cancelled – which was a significant financial hit. So quite deliberately, I over committed myself for the first few months of this year – saying “yes” to whatever work was offered.
Whilst that resulted in a healthier bank balance, it made a dent in family life. There were more overnight trips, more mornings up at the crack of dawn to squeeze in an hour before the boys woke and more evening work. The end result? A frazzled mom (and a neglected Dad).
Something had to change.
As a mom, time is precious. There never seems to be enough hours in the day to fit everything in. Yet sometimes we end up making life more difficult for ourselves by over-committing to things:
"You want me to join that conference call on my non-working day? Sure, I can do that" "Help out for a couple of hours at the school fun day? No problem!" "Have everyone round for Sunday dinner? Yes, would love to!"
It's lovely to be involved in stuff and, of course, there are times that we need to go the extra mile or help someone out. But if you find yourself constantly rushing from one thing to the next – be that at work or at home - maybe you need to get better at saying ‘no’?
After all, when you say yes to something you don’t really need or want to do, you say no to things that you do want to do (and often the people you love).
Here are tips to help you say NO more often:
- Buy yourself time. Instead of committing on the spot say ‘I’ll have to check my diary and will get back to you’. It can be easier to say ‘no’ if the other person feels we’ve given it some consideration. It also gives us the chance to pause, look at the bigger picture and see how it fits in with everything else we have on.
- Just say ‘no’. You don’t always have to give a reason or excuse as to why you can’t or don’t want to do something. Sometimes we dilute our ‘no’ by waffling on about why we can’t do it. It’s okay – you’re allowed to say ‘no’.
- Remember, if you never say ‘no’ what’s the value of your ‘yes’? Value your own time and others will start to value you more too.
- Offer an alternative and focus on what you can do (if you think it’s appropriate). For example ‘no, I can’t come to that meeting but I can send you my headline thoughts the day before’.
- It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Politely decline by saying ‘thanks for asking me, it sounds great – I’m not going to be able to make it this time around’.
- Don’t be a flake. It’s better to say ‘no’ upfront than to flake out of dinner plans or a team night out at the last minute – you’ll get more respect by being direct.
- Don’t even say the ‘N’ word – e.g. ‘I have a hard stop at 5 o’clock’ is easier to say than ‘No, I can’t stay as I have to leave at 5 to do crèche pick up’.
- Avoid lethal projection. Often, we imagine the worst case scenario of saying ‘no’ – they’ll never ask me again or I won’t look committed. Chances are it’ll never be that drastic.
- Say ‘no’ to yourself too. I’ve gotten better at saying ‘no’ to ironing and cleaning that I could do… and instead siting down and reading for half an hour, or playing with the boys or just chatting with my other half. Often we’re the ones filling our days to bursting point.
Good luck with flexing your ‘no’ muscle. We support working moms from maternity leave, to returning to work and all the way along their career path.