Are you a people-pleaser? I know I am. I hate the thought that someone, somewhere might think anything negative about me.
Of course, this is silly, and we'll get more into why it's silly in a moment, but when you want everyone to be happy with you all the time?
It is really, really, REALLY hard to say "no."
It's become a joke with me and some friends that there's a magical phrase that can convince me to do anything:
"I need your help."
I can't resist! I so easily fall under the power of "Somebody wants MY help! I feel needed! I want to be helpful!"
The truth is, though, saying yes to everything has gotten me into hot water more than a few times. I find myself running ragged, too busy, with too many spinning wheels, AND feeling resentful over these things I've agreed to help with. I end up being angry with myself and resenting the people I've said "yes" to.
Over the past year, I've been working hard on saying "No." It does not come naturally to me. What about you? Do you find yourself in the same predicament? If so, here are 3 questions that I've started using that help make "no" trip more easily off the tongue.
1. WHAT'S MY MOTIVATION?
If you're inclined to say yes, take a moment and consider WHY. Would you be saying yes out of a genuine desire to take on the project? Or is the motivation, deep-down, more out of a sense of obligation?
Your sense of motivation will ultimately be the engine that drives your work. If you're excited about a project, you are less likely to procrastinate and less likely to feel resentment. By the way, neither of these motivations are inherently good or bad--obligation has its place.
"Genuine desire" and "obligation" are also not to only two options. Are they offering to drive a dump truck of money up to your house? That can be pretty motivating! Before you agree to it, try to understand why you might do it.
2. HOW MUCH TIME WILL THIS ACTUALLY TAKE?
How much time (or money or resources) will this project actually take? Take whatever they tell you, then tack on a little bit more. Are you willing to devote the resources gladly? Even if the time goes past what you were promised or the budget creeps up a little bit?
Take note, too, of the potential emotional cost of the project. If you hesitantly agree to extra work, you are signing up with the advance knowledge that you may run out of motivation before the project is done. Before you say "yes", understand that your emotional stores may run dry. Do you have adequate self-care techniques lined up for when you begin to lose emotional connection?
3. WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF SAYING "NO"?
Remember when I said that "I hate the thought that someone, somewhere might think anything negative about me"? That, to me, is usually the biggest consequence of saying "no". You mean someone might be slightly put-out or annoyed by my refusal? PERISH THE THOUGHT!
Yeah, it's a little self-centered and dramatic that I feel this way. First off, I'm sure there are people around who find me annoying or who think I'm selfish with my time. That's life and I just have to deal with it. Secondly, I'm sure nobody is losing sleep obessing over something I said. Eleanor Roosevelt said it best, “You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” Thirdly, would I be genuinely angry with someone who politely declined? Probably not (and chances are, they wouldn't be genuinely angry with my refusal, either).
Other consequences of saying "no" could be a final product that isn't done "the way you would have done it." Or it simply could be the living with the knowledge that someone else will have to do all the work.
If answering these questions produces a giant neon sign that screams "NO!" at you, then you have a fairly simple answer. Of course, that's not necessarily how it's going to be. Take stock of each of these questions and weigh them together. Hopefully, there will be one or two factors that will tip the scales in favor of one answer.
I'll leave you with two parting thoughts that I hope will help you:
- Unless the question is "Will you help me perform emergency surgery on this patient?", a response of "Let me think about it and get back to you," is always appropriate if you need time to consider the questions above.
- Are the imaginary scales equal when you rationally consider the above questions? Then drop rationality and go with your gut. "I have a bad feeling about it" can override your logical responses.
Do you have a question that you ask yourself before you say "yes"? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!