One of the things I was looking forward to when I finished work last September and started working for myself was the control I thought I would have. No more having to get up at five in the morning because my manager needed me to go to a meeting at the other end of the country that lasted all of an hour (what’s wrong with a phone call I ask you?), no more working weekends because I was given something to do at 4:55 on a Friday afternoon that was needed by 9:05 on a Monday morning, and no more having to smile and say “yes, of course,” when I really wanted to say the complete opposite and turn the air blue.
For the most part, I am pleased to say my move into self-employment has been pretty successful. There’s been no more early, early mornings and only a few late, late nights. Where I am struggling, though, is the not saying yes part. I am just no good at it and, after a recent conversation where my brain was screaming at me to say no but I still said yes, I’ve decided I need to do something about it. And not just when it comes to work but in life in general, where I am just as bad if I’m honest.
I know I’m not the only one out there with the same “can’t say no” problem and I wonder why we do it? For me, it’s part guilt, part a need to make people happy, with a pinch of fear of the reaction I’ll get if I say no. Regardless of the reasons, though, I made a huge change to my life last year for a reason, to protect my physical and mental health, and I don’t want my inability to say no spoil that.
So, what am I going to do? Well, after spending what seems like days, but is probably hours, reading articles on how to say no nicely, I’m going to try and put in place some simple techniques that I hope will help…
1. I am going to create a weekly schedule of what I need to do work-wise and otherwise (which usually means driving my daughter to all her after-school activities but also includes things like going for a run and doing the shopping) and look at it to see if I can fit in whatever I’m being asked to do. I’m hoping this will stop the stress of trying to get too many projects done at once or rushing to pick up someone else’s child with only 10 minutes notice for the third time in as many weeks. This way, if I say no there will be a reason why. I’m hoping this will reduce the guilt-factor.
2. I’m not going to respond straight away if my instinct is to say no but I’m not 100% sure. If it’s a text or email, I’m going to wait before getting back to people, checking my schedule and thinking if it’s something I actually want to do. If I’m being asked in person or on the phone, I’m going to say that I’ll have to check and get back to the person. I’m hoping this will reduce my need to make people happy by saying yes (my normal, knee-jerk, reaction) as I’m not giving an immediate response.
3. I’m going to ask questions about just what is involved in saying yes. For work, especially, this is important as I am currently working for one client who says they need help writing 500 words for example, then adds another few thousand onto that when they send the project through. Right now, I tend to just work through everything but, next time, if I say yes to 500 words that’s where my yes will end unless I can do the rest without adding to my stress levels.
4. Finally, I’m going to stop saying sorry when I do say no, at least when it comes to work and sometimes when it comes to the rest of my life (like getting 10 minutes notice for the third time!). It was pointed out to me recently it’s something I always do and it and makes the person asking for something feel they might have a chance to change my mind. Apparently, I never sound like I really mean no – probably because of the fear factor – and that needs to change.
Hopefully, this will help me feel more in control of my life. What do you think? Do you struggle to say no?
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