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Learning to Say No may Help your Career in the Long Run

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learning to say no
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Learning to Say No may Help your Career in the Long Run

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When somebody says ‘No’, our human instinct is to have a negative reaction.

Obviously, we have asked for something we need or want, and the other party is not having a bar of it. But what if I told you saying No could be a positive outcome for the person seeking something from us and for us personally.

In Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, learning to say no is a critical skill to develop. You develop clarity of focus and make the best use of your limited time. When faced with whether you should say no or yes becomes a judgment you need to make usually quite quickly. You are possibly faced with the conflict between your own value system and the pressure to act quickly to make others happy. This can happen in your work, personal and social life.

Let’s consider the numbers- working a 40 to 60-hour week when you have a potential 168 hours a week available to you makes you more aware of the power of saying no to activities or tasks that won’t give you happiness or fulfillment in the long run.

The reality is, most people don’t say no and what happens is your confidence & self-esteem plummets and you resent the very activities you have said yes to. So why do we do this?

Well, there are several reasons.

1. Your Fear of Disappointing Others. That guilt feeling comes up time and time again. We want to make people happy and fundamentally we want to be liked. Remember the time when you were sick, and you dragged yourself into the office for the fear of not disappointing your boss or important client! Voila!

2. Your Fear of Missing Out. This is a social anxiety we feel that there is perceived pleasure that you will miss out on. You want to stay connected to what is happening in your social group or work environment.

3. Not wanting to create conflict in Relationships. As human beings, we have the human need to belong, be loved and get along with our social group. It dates to the Hunters and Gatherers time where being part of a group formed part of your survival. So, it’s really in our instinct to behave like this.

Not creating conflict is common when we are making our first career choice. Choosing a career that Mum and Dad approve of creates harmony in our relationship with them. This can change however as you become older and no longer seek their approval. The conflict, however, may shift to a spouse or partner that wants you to stick to a career that you may hate creating an obstacle for a career change.

Creating conflict with your Boss or Manager is also something we avoid so not saying no may have you resenting work tasks, the work environment and ultimately your boss or superiors.

In the midst, of all these reasons though, ask yourself, if you don’t say no and you are making others happy, what are you actually missing out on personally by not saying no? What could you use that time for?

You always have a choice.

When you have no clarity about what is important to you, it is easier to say Yes to people and go with the flow satisfying the needs of others. But what about you?

Wouldn’t you want clarity, use your time effectively to move forward in your career or work tasks and gain the confidence you have been craving? You can when you exercise the judgment of when the right time to say Yes and the right time to say No. In his book, McKeown gives lots of examples of how to do this. When looking at your fear of creating conflict in a relationship, separate the decision from the relationship. If you say no to doing something it has nothing to do with the person but rather the task. How you communicate this becomes very important to the outcome.

To exercise judgment of when to say no can have people respect your time and ultimately respect you more. When you are clear about your values and how you want to move forward saying no comes more easily and without guilt. You no longer feel bullied or resentful. If you had said yes, what you gain in the short term by not disappointing people is a trade-off against you gaining respect in the long term.

Remember that you cannot be liked by everybody. Ask yourself, do you like everybody? This is especially true with work relationships. When you feel work colleagues hogging your work time, open the communication channel. Communicate what current work commitments you are working on and shift the decision making to them. You start acting like a leader, developing empathy in your work colleagues and start showing confidence. But we warned it is all about the delivery, whether you say no with courage and grace. When you push back, you send a message that your time is valuable, and you take back control of your time.

It takes courage & grace to say no and to really have a look at how you are using your time and what is important to you. You can set career or personal goals but having the skill like saying no may contribute to whether you achieve them in the long run.

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