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Choosing to Say No

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Do you find that you have an issue with saying “no” to people? It’s necessary to learn how to focus on your own goals, too!

I say “yes” too often. I enjoy helping other people whenever I can, so that is not what bothers me. However when I say “yes” to myself and I am already stretched for time or resources, I know I am overcommitting. That is frustrating. Do you also find yourself saying “yes” just because you want to accomplish more?

The ability to say “no” is very powerful. When I say “no”, it is not to limit what I want to accomplish. The result I seek is to give myself the ability to stay focused on more important tasks. This week, I sat down to review my open projects. I captured what needed to be done for each, and where I lacked the progress that I desired. Juggling all the needed attention, because of time, priorities, or conflicting deadlines (especially self-inflicted deadlines) is difficult.

With the analysis in front of me, it became clear that all my projects suffered a little bit because I was splitting my focus across too many projects. So I decided to remove some from my regular schedule. The result is that my focus is more narrow, and I can accomplish more on the remaining projects. This has had a major impact to my day. It has given me more energy to work on specific tasks.


© Flickr user SodanieChea.

You may be thinking that this was not a big breakthrough, and we all work too many projects. I would challenge you to take a blank piece of paper and list of all your current projects and activities. Then write things you know you need to be doing, but never seem to have the time, energy or resources. If you are like most people, you will see that most of your projects do not get enough of your time.

So what should change? What project needs more of your focus to accomplish your goal? What project must you eliminate to make this happen? Caution! These changes could result in more being accomplished, reduced stress, and increased happiness.

There are actually pretty good benefits to saying “no” to people at work. You can focus on your own deadlines and produce better work because you’re not stressed from that extra load. Yet for some reason, it can be really awkward to tell someone that you can’t help them. Why is that situation so stressful? Reuben Yonatan gave us some really helpful tips to get us through this somewhat uncomfortable position you find yourself in when saying “no” to someone.

But if we determine a situation warrants saying no, how do we know the right way to decline without causing any backlash? If it is handled poorly, more conflicts can come from it. GetVoIP has compiled a list of tips to help guide you through awkward or nerve-wracking situations when saying no. Some of their ideas include:

  • Communicate in person
  • Be honest
  • Offer an alternative
  • Be calm and deliberate
  • Ask for assistance with prioritization
  • Reinforce your openness to help in the future.

Don’t spread yourself too thin. While it’s really nice to want to help others and that recognition can be great, it’s not worth letting your own work suffer as well. If you have the time, and all of your own work is completed to the best of your ability, then definitely pitch in if someone asks you for help. Otherwise, work on gaining the confidence you need in order to be able to stand your ground and firmly say “no.”

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Mark S. Brown
Mark S. Brown is an executive coach who is passionate about personal development. He works to make a difference in people's lives by empowering them with skills and knowledge that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in. Mark has been coached, mentored, and certified by John Maxwell and his team. This coaching certification allows Mark to successfully coach and train individuals, groups, organizations, and companies.
Mark S. Brown


Executive and Business Coach at New Roads Leadership. A founding partner of the John Maxwell Team. We coach for your personal success!
Mark S. Brown
Mark S. Brown

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