Being a people-pleaser is hard work. When you feel obliged to keep giving people what they want from you, you find yourself working twice as hard as others without necessarily seeing a payoff for it.
You might tell yourself that the satisfaction of knowing that you’re the go-to person in the office is enough. At some point, though, it gets exhausting; you’re overworked and burnt out, people keep taking advantage of your kindness, and you hardly have time for yourself. It’s just not worth it anymore.
So you have to start saying no. The problem is, you’re so used to saying yes that turning people away awakens dormant fears of being alienated at work. No one wants to be seen as the office grouch or to be treated as the pessimistic naysayer. This, however, is precisely why you need to learn to say no without alienating yourself; here’s how.
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Being able to say no is a critical aspect of time management. Here’s the thing, though: time management isn’t actually about how you manage your time. It’s about how you manage your priorities. If you’re not crystal clear what your priorities are and which priorities come first, it’s harder to say no to people.
For example, starting the day with a to-do list might make it seem like you’ll probably have some pockets of time to fit in requests from co-workers in between your work. You might think, “I’ve got time. I’ll fit it in after lunch.” On the other hand, if you’ve ordered your task list in terms of priority, it’s much easier to gauge how much time you have and don’t have.
If it’s alienation that you fear, reframe what it means to say no. So many people who love to say yes fear the repercussions of saying no because they’re afraid that asserting themselves can create unnecessary tensions with others, tensions that could be avoided by just capitulating.
In reality, though, saying no doesn’t make you a killjoy or a spoilsport. It means that you know where to draw your boundaries, and you know and are secure in yourself enough to let people know what they are.
How many times have you said yes to someone without knowing whether or not you could complete their request, solely for the sake of maintaining a good relationship? This is often why people feel obliged to say yes. They think, “I’ll just say okay now and figure it out later.” In specific contexts, it can be helpful to think this way, but for people-pleasers, it’s a crutch.
Being short-sightedness can impair your vision and jeopardise your safety. Similarly, saying yes to make people happy in the short term doesn’t mean you’ll be able to give them what they need in the long run. The repercussions of agreeing to do something you’re not sure you can commit to are much more dire than the cost of turning someone down immediately.
Some people won’t take no for an answer, especially so when it’s your boss whom you need to turn down. In such cases, simply turning them away isn’t enough, nor will it be enough even to furnish them with an explanation of why you can’t do it.
Instead of caving in, though, try presenting them with alternatives. People are much more likely to accept and respect your refusal if you suggest other avenues they could pursue to achieve what they need besides coming to you.