07 Jul 2013

Just say ‘No!’

‘No’ is such a simple word, yet it’s so hard to use. Of course I’m not talking about saying ‘no’ to a telemarketer who calls you for the third time today about getting life insurance, but saying ‘no’ to a colleague who passes by your desk, asks if you have a minute, and then goes on for half an hour about how she has over a thousand friends on Facebook while ignoring your exasperated smiles and subtle hints about deadlines and meetings.

Does that scenario sound familiar? Well, that simply means that you’re one of the hundreds of millions of people who automatically default to being nice in just about any social setting. And, yes, that includes me as well. I don’t know—maybe being constantly agreeable and friendly makes it easier to get through our daily annoyances. But in the long run it can really bite you back. By never saying ‘no’, you encourage people to barge in on you no matter what you’re doing or how you’re feeling. If you simply have to endure a long rant about traffic, or if your friends keep cancelling get-togethers at the last minute… well, that’s not too bad. But if you let it go out of control, you can end up with, say, covering for your friend at work while she takes a long vacation just because you couldn’t say ‘no’ during a meeting…

So, maybe learning how to say ‘no’ once in a while isn’t such a bad idea. For example, voicing a contrary opinion during a meeting (which could actually lead to more productive discussions, you know), or saying ‘no’ to requests for small favors (just because you once went out to buy snacks for the whole office crew doesn’t mean that you have to do it all the time, no?), etc. Going the opposite route and becoming a naysayer is of course not nice and might lead to more problems, but saying ‘no’ once in a while (or more) can help keep you sane…

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