Just Say “No”

According to Statistics Canada, the annual cost to Canadian companies due to stress-related disorders is $12 billion.  Absenteeism due to stress has increased by over 300% since 1995. 

All of us are under stress in both our personal and business lives.  The demands placed on us to be super mom or dad, plus do more in the workplace, very often with less, are quite literally making many of us sick.   There are many sources of stress:  tight deadlines; contentious co-workers, demanding customers, long hours, overwork, family demands, etc. 

I am developing a workshop that focuses on managing stress in the workplace and during my research, came upon the following quote.

“Stress is not what happens to us.  It’s our response TO what happens.  And RESPONSE is something we can choose.”  – Maureen Killoran                                                            

There are many things that we can do to alleviate the negative impact of stress.  Make sure we eat well, get enough sleep, learn to “find the funny”, etc.  One tactic I believe many of us need to get better at is learning how to say “no”.

We very often put additional stress on ourselves when we agree to take on more than we can handle.  When someone asks you to do something, even if it is something you would like to do but simply don’t have the time for, it can be very difficult to say no. Perhaps you have been asked to take on a new task at work, you’ve been asked to sit on a committee for a charitable organization you believe in, you’ve been asked to join the board in your condo. The list could go on and on. 

Learning how to say no and then sticking to your guns is an important skill to learn.  A “Positive No” is one approach that you may find helpful.  There are several ways to do that: 

  • Clarify your reason, without making excuses, for being unable to help. Example: “I can’t right now because I have another project that is due by 5 pm today.”
  • Give an alternative. Example: “I don’t have time today, but I could schedule it in for tomorrow morning (or next week or next month).
  • Or say yes, with an alternative solution. Example: “Yes, I can help you by filing this paperwork and will get that done for you tomorrow morning.”

And if, after evaluating the opportunity, you do decide to take it on, do not do so without taking some time to consider what you will need to give up in order to find the additional time. And when you go through your list of things to give up, be sure not to eliminate sleep!

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