I am a “yes” person.
I was brought up to believe that saying “yes” was the polite thing to do (obviously strangers handing out candy was the exception to this rule).
When I entered the workforce, I was taught that saying yes would progress my career. It would lead to me being seen as a team player and having a positive attitude. It would help me get involved in a variety of projects. It would lead me to career success. Because successful people say yes, don’t they?
Well, it turns out they are also really good at saying no.
The problem with not saying “no”
The biggest problem with being a yes person is that other people’s priorities soon become your own. This is fine when you share the same goals, but it’s not ok when your goals are completely different. If Veronika from Sales is asking you to help her with an important PowerPoint deck because you are known for your own great presentations, this is a perfect opportunity to say no. While you may feel great by helping a co-worker, it probably means staying back late to get your own work done after you have finished Veronika’s slides.
When you perennially say yes to other people’s work, you end up working twice as hard. In a world where pretty much everyone is trying to find some resemblance of balance between work, family, friends, and having a life, working twice as hard because you are doing other people’s jobs is definitely not in your best interests.
So perhaps you can concede that saying no is important and will actually help you get ahead (rather than hinder it). But how do you get comfortable saying one of the most uncomfortable words in the English language?
It’s not personal
While saying no to someone feels deeply personal, and even quite rude, it’s not. When you say no to someone at work, remind yourself that you are saying no to the request, not the person.
When someone asks you to do something at work, it’s ultimately about doing a task that requires work. And time. If you have the time, then great! But if your plate is completely full, you are simply saying no to the task that is being requested of you.