Say No More Often!
Even in the legal profession – saying “No” more often can be useful when you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re taking on too much or your clients are just too demanding.
If you want to use your time more effectively or just get through the day with less stress, it’s key to your success.
Initially you might find saying “No” is hard to do, particularly if you usually say “Yes” and people are used to you saying it. You want to look after your clients, you want to help your colleagues but you need to stop reacting and start being more proactive.
You say “Yes” because:
– You feel you ‘should’ or ‘ought’ to say ”Yes”.
– You don’t want to let people down.
– You feel guilty if you don’t say ”Yes”.
– They’re your boss/colleague – you can’t say “No”.
Your time is yours and it’s up to you to decide how you spend it. Don’t be guided by other people’s expectations – even if they’re your clients, your boss or work colleagues. You need to set clear boundaries so people know where they stand.
You don’t have time to do everything so you have to be realistic about what you can achieve. If you say ”Yes” too often, you’ll collapse under the weight of responsibility, time constraints or the shear volume of work.
When you find yourself about to say ”Yes”, ask yourself two questions:
What are you actually saying ”Yes” to?
What are you then saying “No” to?
When you say ”Yes” to completing a case file by the end of the day, you are saying ‘No’ to finishing work on time.
When you say ”Yes” to taking on more work, what is the impact on your existing workload and working hours?
What stops you from saying “No”? What do you get by saying ”Yes”? What’s the pay-off for you to say ”Yes”. Recognition, respect, affirmation, a bigger bonus, career progression? What’s the real cost in terms of stress, longer hours, less time for family and friends?
The more you say “Yes” the more people will ask you to do. Is it part of your job role – can or should someone else do it? Can you negotiate with the person to suit your time-frame and workload.
“I can’t do that today but I could do it tomorrow or next week.”
“I don’t have time to talk to you now but can I call you later today … tomorrow … next week”
Deal with people, emails and phone calls in the same way. You don’t have to say “Yes” to dealing with them right now. Do you actually know what you’re agreeing to? We all know how something that “won’t take up much of your time” can have the opposite effect.
You might not feel comfortable saying “No”, especially if you’re not used to saying it. You could say, “I need time to think about this – I’ll let you know …” instead? This gives you a chance to decide if this is something you can or want to take on or it’s something you want to do. Remember, it’s your time, it’s up to you how you use it.
“No, I’m afraid I’m too busy to do that right now.”
“No, I don’t have my diary with me. Can I get back to you later?”
“No, I’m not interested, thank you!”
“No, I can’t do that but perhaps … might be able to help you with that.”
Try it for the next month. How many times can you say ‘No’ in a day? Make it fun. Don’t say ”Yes” until you’ve at least had a chance to think about what it involves and what it means to you. You can still say “Yes”. I just want you to actually say “No” first not just a knee jerk reactive “Yes”.
You don’t need to make excuses. Far better to be open, upfront and honest with people. They won’t think less of you for saying “No” and you’re less likely to let people down if you say ”’Yes”’ too quickly and then have to say “No” at a later date.
Practice with a friend or colleague so you become comfortable saying “No”.
Get used to being clear, direct and in control.
Try it and let me know what difference it makes.
If you want to find easier ways for you to say ‘no’ in your day-to-day life.