“No.” “No, thanks.”
In Extension, in my opinion, we have one of the best jobs ever. We get to help people and share awesome information that will help transform lives. There are youth programs to plan in order for them to learn about proper care of an animal, there are diabetes programs that help with chronic disease prevention, there are landscaping workshops that teach “right plant, right place” and on and on…all because we want to improve people’s lives and help them live – do – feel better.
Because of our passion to influence status quo based on research-based information, we run on all cylinders. We are excited to get to work to prepare for this and that, participate in meetings to prepare for the next program, work on a special project for the community, and then we realize that it is 2:00 p.m. and we did not take a lunch. Before you know it, it is 7:00 p.m. and you have to get home to the family. That was me. That was me when my work / life balance was lopsided. That was me, before I learned how to say one word – “No”.
The word “no” comes with a lot of baggage, but it is not a bad thing. Susan Newman, PhD, suggests in her book, The Book of No: 365 Ways to Say it and Mean it—and Stop People-Pleasing Forever (Updated Edition) that saying “no” is a learned behavior. Dr. Newman (2017) states “As young children, the word ‘no’ is drummed out of us,” she says. “Most children seek their parents’ love and attention and come to realize that refusing what a parent asks or wants isn’t the way to get it.” She says that this behavior carries in to adolescence – not doing something that a parent asks, may take away a privilege. Then as we move into adulthood and grow emotionally, we begin to feel the angst of actually saying “no” to someone.
I am here to tell you that saying “no” will not ruin the day. Saying “no” will not keep your boss from ruining your career. Saying “no” will not prevent your coworkers from respecting you. Saying “no” will actually help you in the long run – you can breathe easier, you can accomplish your to-do list, you can do the things that you need (and want) to do.
One tip on saying no is to not be defensive when you are saying it. Acknowledge the other person, but also acknowledge what you are feeling too. When you think about their question, you may be able to direct them to a person that can also help or you may tell them the other things that you may be working on (especially if you are weighed down with many projects). Express your disappointment that you cannot work on something for them (you cannot give them 100% if you are adding another project), but open up the opportunity for another time.
When you can do it and are eager to help, go for it. If you can give your all and do your best work, by all means say yes! If any doubt or hesitancy enters your mind, process the situation and do what is best for you and the quality of your current work. That may just be as easy as saying “No.”