The holiday season (while both magical & jolly) always seems to add to an already jammed schedule – extra social gatherings, gift buying/giving, school events (if you have children, nieces/nephews, etc.), & end-of-the-year work deadlines can become quite overwhelming. However, research shows that anywhere from 35-60% of people have difficulty saying “no” to others even when there’s simply no room on their plate to say “yes.” There are various reasons for this, but when we get too much on our plates, our “hard drive” gets full, which limits our productivity. As they say, “you cannot pour from an empty cup.” To truly be effective, we need boundaries as well as good cognitive load management. Both of which require learning when & how to say no.
Before we tackle that, we have to discuss what things you should be saying “no” to in the first place. Take a moment to reflect on what is important to you. Anything in your day to day that supports what you value should take priority over things that do not. If you’re specifically feeling overwhelmed at work, perhaps make a list of the tasks you’ve been charged with & make time with your manager to go over which ones should be prioritized over others.
Now…how to say, “no.”
One problem with saying “no” is it can come across as abrupt, & that’s a common reason people won’t say it. It might help to know that there are ways of saying “no” without saying the word, “no.” With that in mind, let me share some alternative ways to say “no.” One of our favorite ways to say “no” without saying the word is, “I’m sorry, that’s not going to work for my schedule.” Why does it work? Because people have a difficult time arguing with your schedule. However, if they still apply pressure for you to say yes, you can always say “I’ll look at it a little closer, but right now I don’t think it’s going to work.”
Other phrases include:
“I’m sorry, I can’t commit to that right now.”
“That is really a bad time for me. I have another priority that requires my attention.”
“You know, I’m probably not the best person for that. Have you thought about asking ____?”
“Please understand that I’m honored, but can’t right now. Thanks for asking.”
“That sounds wonderful, I wish I could make it, but I can’t. Let me know how it works out.”
Bottom line, if people keep putting stuff on your plate & you’re getting overwhelmed, staying focused on your goals & familiarizing yourself with a few phrases can help you set boundaries to regain your sanity.