I should have said No to writing this article. 

But fueled by the notion that “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” I succumbed. Such quotes might be inspirational or motivational yet they can also be 100% destructive. 

Why “No” is a bad word…

Saying “No” is hard because we are taught that it’s synonymous with concepts such as standing still, giving up, or missing out. Concepts we don’t want linked to us especially in our professional endeavors. 

Writing about saying “No” was nerve-racking for me because like many others I have such an issue with No’s conflict-inducing nature that I often resort to its better, more well-behaved counterpart: the doting “Yes”.

Deciding when to say “No” is a very confusing venture; it’s all contextual and subjective. So let’s boil it down to a few guidelines.

1- When your body says “No”

After agreeing to write this article, suddenly my stomach started growling and my anxiety started acting up. I felt helpless to refrain from doing the task because of what saying No might say about me. 

Having researched for this article, I found that our bodies can be road maps to how we feel. Taking into account my emotions and instincts was not an easy concept as a 21st-century millennial. I was taught to put emotions on the backburner and give my ambitions the driving wheel.

Keep it balanced when saying No

The Yes/No scale:

Of course, you shouldn’t succumb to your feelings all the time. But learning what your body might be communicating to you can help in deciding what the appropriate response for each situation might be. 

In this situation, you might measure your body’s reaction to saying “Yes” as opposed to saying “No” to see what each of them indicates in this given situation. If “Yes” is accompanied by stress-inducing emotions, such as anxiety, sadness, or anger, all of which have been proven to trigger symptoms in your gut, then it’s simple: listen to your gut.

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2- When the consequences of Yes are a price you can’t pay

“on a loop” 

What if this same situation happens again and again and again and again? What if I was put into 12 situations a day where my body pulls me towards “No”, but I shove it into Yes’s direction? What then? Should I pick my battles or should I undertake 12 intense bodily experiences?

I might ignore the advice of my body once or twice, for the sake of the collective wellbeing of this blog and my professional career. But when it’s a recurring situation, sometimes the price to pay for that is higher than what you can afford. 

Like many others, I am always tempted to take the “Yes” train because I am pressured to seem like I can do it all (insert perfectionist status here). Overestimating your abilities can be one of the most damaging biases to your progress.

Keep it balanced when saying No

What you will be paying in exchange for “greatness”:

  • Physical/psychological discomfort
  • Hinders you from performing other key responsibilities
  • Lack of results
  • It can mess with your clarity and focus

It may seem ironic, but saying ‘no’ strategically and respectfully is crucial to your standing in the workplace and your career. When you get a request that will prevent you from accomplishing a key career goal or your core responsibilities, it is important to say ‘no.’ Start by discussing your key tasks with your manager and calculate how much time it will take to get them done. Then you will know whether you can say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’

Loren MargolisTraining & Leadership Success LLC

3- When you can negotiate

Voicing out your concern about a certain issue shouldn’t always be conflict-inducing. Sometimes it’s grounds for a compromise. Instead of having to attend dozens of meetings a week that only consume time and effort, you can negotiate with your manager about keeping the meetings to an effective minimum. 

When discomfort hits, your only options aren’t to just push through or jump out of the much dreaded “comfort zone.”

Like many others, I am always tempted to take the “Yes” train because I am pressured to seem like I can do it all (insert perfectionist status here). Overestimating your abilities can be one of the most damaging biases to your progress.

4- When it doesn’t align with your self-image

“Yes” is often tempting because “No” is a slippery slope. We are social animals, we want to fit in, and we place a significantly high value on peer acceptance. 

Even considering to say “No” to this article made my head the fighting grounds for a cascading rain of doubts: What might my manager and team think? that I am difficult to deal with or that I am not a team player? Or maybe that I am not dedicated enough? 

So I did the socially appropriate thing and took on the work, ignoring the unpleasant physical reaction my body was giving me to such a minor request.

Keep it balanced when saying No

The slippery slope of No:

To fit in, to be highly adaptive is somehow the motto of this generation’s workforce. Our instinct reaction is to stretch and bend. We are ruined by socially conforming to the notion that “Yes” is the better answer. 

Saying “No” confuses us because we think that it must be accompanied by some sort of cost and that this cost will often reflect negatively on our character. Wake up, smell the roses, and know that the actual cost here is your sense of self versus adapting to fulfill the character expected from or imposed on you.

No is not always inside your comfort zone. No isn’t negative; it’s contextual. When you need to say No to uphold your own beliefs, values, and work ethics. It can mean better managing your time and energy. No can be about you choosing to invest exactly in what you want to invest in, but you know, keep it balanced. 

So when you next No is going to be?

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