“No” is a complete sentence.” (Anne Lamott) is my new favourite quote. I am someone who finds it difficult to say no. That is not to say that I don’t say the word – I do, including variations of the word. But the element of no that I really struggle with is the guilt that comes with it. Letting people down and not delivering on what I promise or internally expect of myself is truly challenging for me.
There has been a big increase in portfolio and flexible working in our modern workplaces. This means that we are expected to juggle multiple roles and projects at one time. As well as “life stuff” – relationships, housework, children, pets and making time for leisure. One of the first rules of time management is the ability to prioritise the most important tasks. Prioritising doesn’t only involve listing your tasks in the order of importance. Prioritising also consists of being able to say no to tasks you can’t do to a high quality or jobs that won’t actually benefit you.
It is a real skill being able to say no to people and jobs. It is crucial to your happiness to be able to set boundaries and know your limits. Even if you can find the time and energy to squeeze more work in – should you? You need to make time for self-care and doing things you enjoy.
Another area of life that poses resistance to the word “no” is your social life. One of the negative sides of social media is being constantly bombarded with the fun that everyone is having. This puts us at risk of FOMO (the fear of missing out) and makes us feel like we not making the most of our short precious lives as much as we should be.
We are all guilty of holding onto friends who we’ve outgrown and make us feel bad about ourselves. Or there are those people that we love but we can’t spend too much time with – we can only handle them in small doses. I would even go as far as saying that we have different friends for different purposes. Some friends with whom we enjoy a drink and dance, others we have intellectual discussions with and there are our childhood friends who we love forever (mainly because they know too much). But how can we say no when they ask to see us for the second dinner in one month and we’re desperate to find another excuse which isn’t – “I’ve have my monthly dose of you already!!”. It would be great if we could be honest and explain. But let’s be more realistic. A step forward would be being able to say “no I can’t that day I am afraid, but I will let you know when I’m next free.” Or any equivalent that isn’t a long winded, overly apologetic and defensive response. We should be able to give a one liner as to why, as most people will require some explanation, and then that’s it. No guilt, not another thought about it.
That’s what I am working on at the moment anyway. I am secretly hoping that other people are facing the same problem too, it can’t just be me! The ability to say no without becoming defensive and guilty is a skill I am working hard to obtain. I want to live by ““No” is a complete sentence” and I urge any other worriers to do to the same. We can do this.