Saying “no” is not easy by any means – personally or professionally. Eckhart Tolle’s quote, “Stress is caused by being ‘here’ but wanting to be ‘there,’” conveys how I feel when I’ve said yes and regretted it moments later.

People pleasing can be downright unhealthy.

When we’re so focused on making others happy, we may build up guilt and shame, which can turn into resentment over time. Although each situation is unique, it’s usually a limiting belief that causes the impulse to please others. For example, thinking, “I don’t want to let them down,” or “This is what’s expected of me.” There’s also rationalizing, “It’s the right thing to do” or “They’ve done so much for me.” Alternatively, it could be a moment-in-time reaction to an innate craving for human connection.

To curb this self-limiting habit, buy yourself time.

Even if you pride yourself on being responsive and adaptable, permit yourself not to answer immediately. If you’re put on the spot, just share that you’re in the middle of something or need time to think some things through and let them know that you’ll get back to them shortly. Then, take a few moments and ask yourself:

  • How do I feel about the request?
  • Would saying yes make me happy?
  • Does it make sense for me to take this on?
  • Is this something I’m interested in doing?
  • Am I willing to take the time?
  • What needs to be reprioritized or stopped if I take this on?

It’s wise to be honest, but you don’t need to share everything.

If your answer is “no,” communicate with kindness. “No” doesn’t need to be forever. Sometimes it’s more “not now.” Either way, people may try to persuade you, especially if they have predetermined expectations. You need to stay firm and confident, even to the point of removing yourself from the discussion if necessary. Some tips to say “No” kindly include:

  • “Thank you for thinking of me. However, I won’t be able to commit at this time.”
  • “Unfortunately, I’m a bit crazed this week. I’m happy to help, but it will need to be next week or later in the month.”
  • “Have you asked X? They are looking to get more involved.”
  • If your manager is asking you to do something, say something like, “How do you see this fitting into my other priorities? I may need to shift things around to accommodate this task.”

Sometimes you’ll be pleasantly surprised that someone else’s emergency request is just them getting this task off of their to-do list, not necessarily something that you need to act on right away.

Devote as much time to yourself as you would to someone else.

Self-leadership is all about getting to know yourself better and applying that knowledge to how you act, think, and feel. A great way to uncover your core motivation, hidden triggers, preferences, and expressed wants and needs is through the Enneagram, MBTI®, and FIRO® assessments. If you are interested in a self-led course to improve your communication, manage your career, handle stress, and make effective decisions, watch this two-minute video to learn more and reach out to me to show you the behind-the-scenes.

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