Why Learning to Say NO is Good For Your Career

by / ⠀Career Advice / May 6, 2014

Say No

Well, let’s face it! We all have been in a situation when our boss knowingly or unknowingly makes us work beyond we actually would want to. There have been times when we are already running short on a deadline and still, owing to our inability to say a simple “no”, we take on another assignment which obviously would make us curse ourselves later on. So, what is it about saying “no” that keeps us from saying it and make things difficult for us?

Why it is so hard to say “NO”?

Saying no is definitely more difficult than saying yes, and research studies have shown that many people just end up saying yes because they do not want the discomfort that comes with saying no. Social connection is one of our fundamental needs, and saying no seems to put our relationships at stake. That’s why, the more close the person is, we find it more difficult to say no. We fear that a negative reaction would change the way the other person views us.

Neuroscience seems to back this with its findings regarding the way brain handles negative reactions. Negative information is responsible for creation of greater electrical activity in the cerebral cortex than positive information. May be that’s why negative or hurtful memories are harder to forget than positive memories. This actually is the brain’s way to keep us from repeating the same mistake twice. You might be one of the most helping souls out there but when it comes to professional arena, learning to say no might actually prove more beneficial than harmful.

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Why do you need to learn to say no more often?

We are so accustomed to saying yes to almost everything that we often forget what we are saying yes to.  When you are at work such a nature would obviously count you amongst the people pleaser who just wants to suck up to the boss so as to gain a promotion or a salary hike, even if you are genuinely passionate about your job. But this shouldn’t be the reason to start learning to say no.

In fact, saying no more often can actually help you avoid unnecessary stress and falling into trap of inefficient production cycles.  If at any point your subconscious mind tells you about saying no to something, you must give that thought a merit for consideration. It is my first hand experience that when you agree to doing something that you actually do not want to do, it drains you up mentally. Your mind stops being creative for a task which you think you shouldn’t be doing at first place, resulting in mediocrity, which is anything but appreciable at work.

You are no superhuman, so don’t be ashamed of saying it

If I possessed even 10% of the superhuman powers of Spidey or the Batman, I wouldn’t be probably writing this article and you wouldn’t be reading it. Instead, we all are normal human beings bounded by limited mental and physical capabilities and that’s why sometimes saying no can help manage your work load, improve your professional performance and even relationships. Agreeing to do everything what your manager asks you to do even when you have your plate full amounts to being a people pleaser, which can have serious implications for your productivity. The consequences of saying ‘yes’ when you are already working to your full capacity and are unable to deliver the necessary standard of work are actually worse than trusting your gut and saying ‘no’ to a particular assignment.

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Take your time to respond

Instead of immediately responding to a request, give your mind few crucial minutes to structure your schedule and find if there is any room to fit in that new request. Conduct a priority check. Does the new request create any value for the company or add up to your existing skills and capabilities? Can you afford to prioritize the new request if it requires to be done ‘on-priority’ basis?

A reality check regarding the workload will also help. Sometimes it’s not the work but our inefficient management that ends up making us feeling overwhelmed. If you are saying no to a new assignment by your manager, you better have solid reasons to back up your denial.

Be honest

Once you realize that there is no way you can comply to the new request without actually affecting your existing projects and work assignments, the next step is to let your colleague or boss know the same, in delicate yet firm manner. A lopsided statement as it may seem, but nevertheless, a denial of request should be accomplished through delicate choice of words.

Let it be clear through your statement that you are rejecting the request, not the person.  If it’s your boss then you can engage him in prioritizing the different tasks. Ask him if he would like you to complete the new request over the other tasks you have or wouldn’t it be better if the new work is assigned to someone else.

While it will take some time to getting used to saying ‘no’, you will find after some practice that it is not as difficult and it may also earn you the respect of others for they will know you are responsible individual and a person with a plan.

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Saurabh Tyagi took to writing at a tender age of ten, when he submitted his first essay for the school magazine. Although an engineer by qualification, he has kept his creative flame alive and still writes and guest blogs for online education websites on various career and education related topics.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on Under30CEO.com, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.


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