Say No to Yes
There is a word for many of us that is hard for us to say. We aren't sure what reaction it will elicit. Will you hurt their feelings, put your job at risk, or shatter someone’s perception of you? No in context is negative, so we fail to use the word no in situations even when it's clear that no should be the answer. I found my no when I became a mother. While trying to balance a career, marriage, and motherhood, I realized the only way to thrive and survive is through the word no.
No in the Workplace
Three years ago, "no" was absent from my work-life vocabulary. I took on every project assigned, worked late, and accommodated last minute requests. When my second son was three months old, I returned from maternity leave to find uncompleted projects and a big web project. I spent weeks and worked many long nights to launch this web project on time. I knew once this project was completed, I would earn my right to say no. When projects continued to pile on my desk, I finally decided to say no. My boss was infuriated and stated that I was overinflating my level of busy. She was angry because she expected me to say yes, and I didn’t.
The absence of no in the workplace negatively impacted me. I was stressed and undervalued, so I resigned.
No at Home
In my pre-mom life, I envisioned being a well-rested, have-it-all-mom, who chauffeured her children to soccer practices, STEM Camps, and Cub Scouts. As with any dream, it was disconnected from reality. Balancing a full-time work schedule, my home responsibilities, parenting, and finding me-time is a juggling act. When my husband decided to obtain his Master’s Degree, I was both excited and annoyed. For two years, he would be consumed with class and studying. After wallowing in self-pity for a few days, I applied a career-best practice to my home life.
University of California, Berkeley, professor Morten Hansen, Ph.D. said, "Top performers obsess over the few things they focus on. They go all in and dedicate a huge degree of effort. They pay fanatic attention to the details of the work and keep on working to achieve perfection. That obsession is only possible if you focus on a tiny set of priorities."
I obsessed and focused on a few priorities. I signed my oldest up for soccer and eliminated activities that fell outside of the daycare hours. To ensure I made the most of our time together, I said no to the following:
- Social calls from friends once I picked up the boys from daycare
- iPads and television for the children during the week
- Cooking every day
- Entertaining my children after bedtime (Go to sleep, mommy needs rest too!)
No to borrowers
We all know people who need to borrow money, clothes, your car, your time, and whatever else random item they can think of. They ask you for $200 immediately after you’ve been laid off, buried your dog, or closed on a new home. They take and rarely replenish. They become visibly absent when you need help moving, if you need childcare, or if you need a ride to get your car serviced. Because of your tendency to say yes, they know they can count on you. The next time they ask for whatever it is, ask yourself are you helping or enabling?
This no will challenge you at first. You may not notice your frequency of yes. In the past, I found myself doing multiple favors for family and friends, jumping in at work to help team members, and loaning out money. I have overextended myself without taking time for a personal recharge. There are some weeks when Friday can’t come soon enough. On a week like this, someone asked me for a favor. I thought about helping them, then I thought about my tiring week, and I responded no. I chose me and said yes to what I needed.
It's time for many of us to assess who and what we give our yeses to. How many times do you say no to your dreams and goals to give a yes to someone else? Evoke the power of no, and let it stand without explanation.