Recently, I said “no.”
That might sound like a simple thing. Something any two-year-old can do. Indeed, loves to do.
But when asked to take on a project I had done before – and enjoyed doing – I said “no.”
I had rehearsed it. I tried to ease the aggravation, if not pain, I thought I was delivering by offering to find someone else to do the job. And I apologized. Several times.
I am determined to set priorities -- something that is hard to do at this seemingly open-opportunity stage of life.
Even if it lets others down.
This morning I got some insight into why saying 'no' was so difficult – and some coaching for the future.
A story in the Wall St. Journal looks at research around the issue of saying no. It turns out I’m either a “pleaser” or a “doormat.” Or maybe both.
Pleasers “hate to let others down.” While doormats “are conflict averse.” Two reasons why people end up saying “yes” to things they really don’t want to do.
It’s a social animal thing. “One of our most fundamental needs is for social connection and a feeling that we belong,” says Vanessa Bohns, who teaches management sciences at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. Bohns, in a study, showed that people will agree to deface books –a request requiring them to cross an ethical boundary – rather than violate their social ties.
Why say no? To protect your priorities; to protect your ethical standards and not cave to peer pressure; and simply because you just don’t want to do it.
One woman asks herself, “Will this bring me joy?...I am aware that I have only so much energy and time, so I treat them like money and invest them wisely.”
How to say no? First, realize that the recipient of the “no” won’t take it as badly as you imagine.
If the request comes as a surprise, have in your arsenal a phrase like, “Let me think it over. I’ll get back to you.” Then contemplate the request when the sense of guilt has stopped washing over you.
If the request is something you’re expecting, rehearse it. Over and over. Then when the request comes, say no politely. And if you must, repeat it again. And again. (Ever hear this? “Some people just won’t take no for an answer.”)
And don’t give them an opening for hope, as I did when I said no.
As in, “Ask me again next year. I might be able to do it.”