Business, Career

How to learn to say no — and mean it!

learn to say no

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We all want to be agreeable, and often think it will advance our career, but there are times when we need to learn to say no to avoid being overloaded to the point of burnout.

Picture this situation. Tension is in the air, accompanied by an uncomfortable silence. The boss has just announced a new project and everyone in the room knows what this means: even more work and stress. So behave inconspicuously, put on the meaningless facial expression, just no hasty movements that could draw the manager’s attention to you. And then the boss says to you… “would you take over the management of the project?” It passes you through like a lightning bolt, your body cramped, sweat beads form on the forehead, the stomach rebels… and you say, “Yes, very happy to.”

Why it’s so hard for us to say no

Admittedly, the introduction to this article was a little dramatic, but it should now be clear what subject we are going to deal with here. It’s about finally learning to say no – even if the question comes from the boss and even if you feel that a professional disadvantage arises from your rejection. But before we turn to the practical tips, we want to clarify a central question: Why do we find it so difficult to say no in the first place?

Psychology has a whole series of answers to this. There are different reasons why we say ‘yes’ rather than learn to say no.  Here are a few of them:

  • A “no” has a negative feel – but most of us want to be perceived positively
  • The risk of bumping someone’s head is greater
  • Yes-sayers look less obstructive
  • A “yes” automatically seems friendly, open, sympathetic and towards the opposite – a “no” on the other hand (according to the general tenor) does the opposite.
  • Those who say no often have to explain themselves and are subject to enquiries
  • A “no” often has a selfish taste
  • There is simply a lack of self-confidence to learn to say no

The bottom line is that anyone who has trouble saying ‘no’ is not afraid of the word itself, but of the consequences of it. But you can change that if you learn to say no.

How to learn to say no

The most important thing is that it is absolutely okay to say no – and sometimes a “no” is even the only correct answer. If you still have problems with it and a “yes” is much easier for you, you should read the following aspects carefully.

A “no” as self-protection

Let us return to the situation at the beginning of the article. Although she has already reached her limit, she has not said no to the additional tasks and responsibilities – and thus exposed herself to a high health risk.

This example makes it clear that in many situations saying no has to do with self-protection. Whoever says yes to everything wants to make other people right – and loses sight of their own needs. A “no” on the other hand can effectively protect you from this one droplet, which causes the barrel to overflow at the end if you don’t learn to say no.

It’s not rude to learn to say no

The equation “no = rude” is simply wrong. You can definitely knock something out to your counterpart and at the same time still be friendly. Here, the well-known proverb “The sound makes the music” applies. As a rule, a “no” should not be left alone in the room.

This means: justify your rejection – but please only briefly! Nobody asks you for endless justifications, because no one has the time to listen to them. A “no” is usually accepted without any objection, if one can justify it in a few words. If, on the other hand, you send it into the wider world as a lone fighter, you have to adapt to requests.

Start small

Saying no is like any good or bad habit: you have to train them step by step. That is why it is perfectly okay to start small first and then gradually increase.

For example, the next time you get an invitation to a coffee wreath with friends for which you don’t actually have time, that’s a good start. If you manage to say no, you can face ever greater challenges.

Be aware of the problem so you learn to say no

What’s so bad about being a yes-sayer? Well, anyone who always says yes wants to please everyone and present themselves in a positive light, as mentioned above. Ultimately, not a bad tactic– at least from the point of view of others.

Because while they are happy about your commitments, you systematically neglect your own needs. So ask yourself “yes” before each: What’s the point of me?

If the answer is simply ‘nothing’, then it is high time for a clear and unequivocal ‘no’. Don’t be afraid to beselfish, because this tactic is widespread.

Yes-sayers are considered spineless

And another argument that clearly speaks for more “no” in office communication: Those who say yes to everything and never veto it are quickly considered to be someone without a backbone – and this in turn greatly reduces your chances of promotion, more salary and co.

Sure, it takes a lot of courage to make a request to the boss, but who knows: perhaps this act is ultimately the liberation blow that will take your career to the next level.

Reactions are often very different from those feared

The majority of yes-sayers rarely use the word “no” because they are afraid of hurting, disappointing or making the interlocutor angry. But then, in practice, you’ll find that the reactions are far from as negative as expected..

It is important that you free yourself from the idea that saying no would be a bad thing. It’s okay – point. No one we can tear your head off, break down in tears or never speak to you again unless you keep saying ‘yes’.

On the contrary, sometimes you will also receive reactions such as recognition, respect and understanding.

And even if a “yes” is the simpler solution for the moment, it does not automatically mean that it is in the long run.

It is not uncommon – especially when it comes to your own needs and health – that a “no” vote is the much better choice. Compare it to pulling off a bandaid – it only hurts very briefly, but after that everything is good again.