Zen of Jen – Practice Saying “No” with This Easy Exercise

by Jennifer Miller on August 19, 2013

in Communication, Personal Effectiveness, Zen of Jen

index card saying no

Think first then respond

Saying “no” isn’t easy for many people. From team members worried about speaking up to their boss, to saying no to a great “opportunity”, it can be difficult to figure out the right way to decline an offer.

One of the main reasons we hesitate to say “no, thanks” is that we worry about the fallout; we perceive that there will be negative consequences. Thoughts like, “My co-workers won’t respect me” or “I’ll lose out on prime future opportunities if I say ‘no’ to this one” cause us to say “yes” when it’s not in our best interest.

Then there are the way-out-there worries like, “I’ll get fired” or “I’m such loser if I don’t _______”. Irrational? Perhaps, but no less gripping than the more common worries. No matter the size of the worry, there is stress involved.

Another point to consider: it’s not necessarily the work to be done that’s causing you stress, it’s when you see that work as a threat. According to an article in WebMD magazine, psychologist Allan R. Cohen says, that “stress is not a reaction to an event but rather how you interpret the event”.

Here’s a great mental exercise* that can help you identify and then tackle your worries in a way that’s quick, productive and positive.

  1. Write your concerns on individual index cards. For example: “If I don’t work late, I won’t get a promotion” or “If I say no, they won’t like me”.
  2. On the back of each card, counter your concern. “If I keep working so late, I’ll never see my family” or “If they didn’t like me, they wouldn’t have asked me to do it”.
  3. Whenever you can feel yourself being pulled into something you know that you should say “no” to – haul out the corresponding card and reflect on both sides of the card before saying “Yes”.

Keep in mind that nobody wins when you over-commit. Taking a few minutes to reflect on both sides of an issue will help you regain your workplace Zen and make a good choice.

*I saw this in a print version of WebMD, the November/December 2012 issue.

Photo credit: The People Equation

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