The invisible art of saying ‘no’

Author: Janani Sampath

We think we are being rude. ‘Let me do it this time and next time, I will refuse.’ ‘I don’t have the heart to say a ‘no’ because he or she would think I am being unhelpful.’ There are countless reasons for most of us to take up something for the sake of others— from friends to colleagues and acquaintances.

While it may seem like a common problem, research has shown that women often struggle with saying a ‘no’ because of many reasons- social and cultural conditioning to name a few. Most often, their no’s fetch backlash that makes it more difficult.

However, even as we know that we cannot be going out of the way every time, we often grapple with the conundrum of when to draw a line. Here are occasions when you must say ‘no’:

  1. There is too much on your plate: A person who takes up more work without refusing them ever may look reliable. However, let’s get this clear! Stretching yourself too thin ends up in the quality of the work diminishing. It is best to refuse extra work at that point. When quality suffers, the quantity of tasks goes unnoticed.
  2. Not at the cost of well-being: Often, we like to be the superwoman! Someone who is multitasking and managing all tasks coming our way without a flaw. Pinch yourself hard! Everyone knows that it is impossible. With women most often doubling up in roles and juggling responsibilities, if the task eats into your ‘me time’, say a firm no! We want to be someone’s angel but angels can’t be stressed; remember that!
  3. Turn down opportunist requests: We might have a friend, who has a task for us every time they message or call. So much so that we might think they remember our existence only when they need our help. Such relationships are opportunistic. There is no need to agree to help or assist people who believe in extracting gains without investing in it. Say no to value your self-esteem, and nurture meaningful connections.

The art of saying no is critical for success. Most leaders would vouch for its significance because it is the most effective way to prioritize, to channel energy, time, and effort, as it offers a clear path towards our goals.