April is Stress Awareness Month and let’s face it, stress has become a pandemic in our modern times. Coupled with the Covid pandemic, stress has likely affected you or at least someone you know, in one way or another. 

Of course, there are a huge number of factors that determine our stress levels and to talk about all of them would mean writing an entire book, if not several, but I want to focus on one factor that you can actively begin to improve upon today.

Setting boundaries and saying no. 

Be honest, how many times have you said yes to something, only to regret it later? How many times have you said yes whilst knowing in your gut you ought to be saying no? Do colleagues or managers assume you’ll say yes to anything and everything they pass your way? 

Your to-do list grows and grows along with your overwhelm and managing your time becomes an impossible task. You have to reprioritise, and reprioritise again adding to your decision making and slowing you down. You may find yourself procrastinating under the weight of it all, not knowing where to begin. 

And stress in the workplace leads to stress in other areas of your personal life. You may become irritated and aggravated at home, start cancelling plans, eating more or less, drinking, and generally neglecting your self-care.

Unaddressed, stress can lead to severe burnout.

When you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else.

It helps to think to yourself, if I say yes to this, what else am I saying no to? If you say yes to a colleague’s ‘urgent’ request, are you saying no to your own proactive task? 

You can switch it around; if I say no to this, what am I saying yes to? And how will that benefit you? Does it take you further towards your goal or target?

Saying yes to everything has its consequences, and it’s worth weighing them up before you respond to any optional request.

We often say yes to things because we ‘can’ do them.

In work and life we often say we will do something because we’re capable of doing it, regardless of whether or not it’s within the confines of what we’re ‘supposed’ to be doing. Have you ever said yes to doing something that’s outside of your job description? How often is this happening? Just how much are you doing for everyone else to the detriment of yourself?

When a request comes our way to which we want to say no but don’t, these things may happen:

  • We chip away at our own integrity by subliminally telling ourselves that our own priorities don’t matter.
  • We find ourselves being inauthentic. We fake it, spending valuable time on something to which our heart is not committed.
  • By our actions, we teach people how to treat us. By being afraid to stand up to our boundaries, inadvertently we teach people that we’re pushovers and that they can disrespect our time.
  • Or, because we know this pattern in ourselves, we translate it to assume that others will feel similarly when we place a request on their time, so we refrain from asking at all.

It may get uncomfortable.

Saying no may not come easy to you, especially if you’re used to saying yes most of the time. Remember your time is valuable and likely accounted for, so saying no is usually completely justified. Think about the times when other people have said no to you, did you hold it against them or did you accept their response and ask someone else for help instead? 

Saying no is not unreasonable. 

If you do struggle with responses, why not try some of the below until you become more comfortable:

  • Unfortunately now isn’t a good time.
  • No thank you, but it sounds great, so next time!
  • I’m not taking anything else on this week/right now.
  • Thank you for thinking of me, however, I’m fully committed at the moment.
  • I can do X for you, I won’t be able to do Y.

Start small and practise. 

  • Be concise – there’s no need to go into lengthy justifications
  • Friendly in tone – say it with a smile
  • Make it clear that the door isn’t closed forever – they can ask again 
  • Don’t feel the need to justify, but give a clear reason that conveys your current priorities
  • Rehearse – the more you say it the more you’ll feel comfortable

Setting boundaries and saying no is vastly important in leadership roles. You lead by example and you want your team to feel comfortable saying no when necessary. 

In our bespoke Purpose, Progress, Performance programme, we give you the tools you need to define and set clear and reasonable boundaries. This is coupled with techniques to help build self-confidence, team confidence, and the mindset you need to value yourself and others. 

Lead by example and contact us today