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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Saying No Without Guilt

If you asked Mandi and Shaina what my biggest downfall is as a transcriptionist, they'd probably tell you it's that I'm a bit of a pushover when it comes to turning down work. I have an extremely difficult time saying no to work. In fact, this past weekend was the first full weekend that I've had off since the birth of my youngest over three months ago, and I was fighting off the urge to accept work until late Friday night. I felt a little guilty because one of my contracts suddenly received a lot of work, but I am so glad that I didn't cave in. I was able to get a lot of things done that I've been meaning to do for quite some time, and I started my week feeling refreshed and ready to dive in for the first time in a long time.

I read this article on Modern Mom recently, and it's one of the things that has inspired me to be more conscientious about giving myself some time off more frequently. Though the site is geared toward working moms, you need not be a mom or even female to put the valuable pointers detailed in the article to work for you.

Most women fear if they are not accommodating to others, then people may think less of them. They agree to activities they have no interest in doing, simply to ensure everyone thinks they are a good person.

Oprah Winfrey has mentioned this phenomenon as the "Disease to Please." Women most often suffer from this problem. They will fill their lives with an overwhelming amount of responsibility. Unfortunately, in the end, it is with the best intentions women burn out and become very frustrated.

Saying yes too often can lead to high levels of stress. You are stretched too thin by a tremendous amount of commitments and the person who loses in the end is you.
If you feel stressed because you over commit yourself chronically, then you need to be aware of the health implications. High levels of stress have been linked to high blood pressure, heart attack, irritable bowel syndrome and, yes, even weight gain!

KEY POINT: Heart Disease is the #1 killer of women. How you treat your body and mind has a very real effect on your long term prognosis.

So, how do you say no so people will still like you (and you don't feel guilty)? Follow these pointers and start seeking a better balance in your healthy life.

  • Know why you are saying no. Think about the activities in your life that you truly value being with your kids, being with your significant other, being able to relax for five minutes a day. If you stay focused on what is of value, then the next time you are asked to do something, you can decide if it supports your values or not. Yes, being the committee chair for a non-profit organization is very noteworthy, but if it means spending 5 hours a week going to meetings, then you need to weigh in if it supports your values right now.

  • Be clear about saying no. Often, people hate saying "no" so much, they use unclear phases like, "maybe after the first of the year" or "let me get back to you" or "I would love to, but my plate is so full right now." These kinds of responses leave the other person thinking you are actually interested, when you are not. It would be better to say, "I am not able to help on this project. Keep me posted on upcoming events you know I always help when I can. I wish you all the best!"

  • Rather than saying no, offer a compromise. Try to create a win-win situation when possible. Your children's school calls and asks you to bake 5 dozen of your famous chocolate covered cupcakes for the upcoming festival. You know you are slammed at work and truly do not have time to squeeze in this request. Rather than saying no, you could offer to bring cupcakes from one of the local bakeries or to be at the festival to help with setup or cleanup (you were planning on being there anyway). Remember, baking the cupcakes doesn't win you the Mother of the Year Contest. Your kids would rather spend time with you, than hearing you moan and groan in the kitchen.

  • Be happy with yourself about saying no. Those times when you do actually say no, then you begin to second guess your decision. You worry and fret that maybe you should have said yes for many, many, many reasons. STOP! Remember, no one knows your life like you do. Only you can know what fits and what doesn't. By saying no to things that aren't right for you, allows you the time to do the things that are important!

  • Rather than say no, delegate! Your boss comes to you with a very exciting project that you know will be time consuming. Recently, you helped hire a new employee within the department. Talk with the boss about how helpful it would be to have another person who knows how to handle this kind of work. By understanding how important it is to train other people within the company, your boss will see you as a leader.

  • You have already committed, so now you can't say no! People will commit to things that span a great deal of time. You are on the Board of a local non-profit and next year you are expected to be Vice-President and the year after President! Yet, you have learned your new position within the company will expect you to travel. So, have things changed? Absolutely! You cannot foresee the future, and when things change dramatically, you need to reevaluate your commitments. It is OK to talk with the people you committed to and try to seek a win-win solution. Often, by enlisting the help of these people, you will come to a very good solution!

Remember, life is a marathon, not a sprint. Consider what you value when thinking about the commitments in your life. Twenty years from now, you will be glad you did!