Learning to say, No!

How frequently have you obliged a customer, client or boss when all you wanted to say was sorry but no? I recently, had a conversation with a client who was extremely busy with work. He was struggling to cope with the volume of work he had on and it was coming up to the financial year end with many of his customers wanting his service. He was working most evenings and weekends and struggling to say no to more requests. He didn’t need the money; his business by most measures is very successful and he could have turned down the work or postponed it to later in the year. Many of us act in this way just like my client. We treat customers/ clients and bosses as superior people and we worry that if we turn down the work, propose a different date or solution or suggest alternatives it will irrevocably damage our relationship. What is wrong with saying, ’Sorry I am busy that day, I can’t do it at present however, I can do…. or I have booked that day off so can we do it the week after?’.


Being a ‘people pleaser’ can often mean living your life based on other people’s needs and wants rather than your own. Living in fear of being rejected or ‘falling out of favour’ is very draining and encourages the wrong type of behaviours in others. When we are at our best, we know that the vast majority of these thoughts of rejection are just our fears and insecurities and that they are not the truth or a fact. And even if they become a ‘truth’ then the probability was that the relationship was not going to last, as it was not based on respect and trust but command/control and manipulation. In the 21st century, we really should have relationships based on the Adult:Adult model rather than Parent: Child (Transactional Analysis, Berne). We all experience rejection and it is an inevitable emotion of life and choosing to reject rejection can ensure that your don’t became a prisoner to your own self limiting beliefs. It is important to be aware that everyone is experiencing different paradigms of life (or situations) and in some cases no matter what you say or do, they will always reject you, your ideas or thoughts. If you adopt this mindset/ approach that rejection says more about them than you, it will help you rationalise not to take rejection personally.


I would suggest that we all should make our own needs a priority. If a customer or your organisation has an emergency, by all means do whatever you can to help deal with it. But 99% of the time, that request is not an emergency it is just a preference. Something that is someone else’s preference should not always mean you cancel your holiday, time off or current priorities. Over the years, I have seen many colleagues and clients miss family events, time with loved ones and weekends away with friends to meet the needs of the business, a boss’s priorities or a client’s important piece of work. It never fails to surprise me how quickly these peoples’ priorities, which we view as more than important than our own, become yesterday’s news and just another tick in the box. I have bad news for us all if that No 41 bus comes round the corner and knocks us over, the world, your organisation and your clients will continue to find a way to function. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your view point, none of us are indispensable and the world of business and work will continue on.


So look to the future, and blend your priorities, needs and wants with others and make pragmatic decisions that balance your needs as well as your clients, bosses and your colleagues. Remember when you travel on an airplane and you get the safety briefing before take off, whoes oxygen mask do they tell you to fit first? Yes your own. To look after others, you need to first look after yourself.