Most people who know me well enough know that I absolutely hate saying no to things. I love taking on new opportunities to learn and grow, to branch out from my daily routine, to meet folks outside of my circle, and to help others. Often times, my impulse to lend a hand or to join a committee is a resounding yes! and I look forward to the opportunity to change up my routine. My schedule is typically packed with both social and professional obligations, and a busy week exhilarates me.
But this year, I’ve had to step back and say no to things. What’s worse, is that a few of these commitments were things that I had previously said yes to, but through some transitions that I went through at the end of last year, I’ve had to step back and pass my duties on to others.
It makes me feel absolutely terrible to say no, especially when it’s something that I had previously committed to. But I recognize the importance of giving my full self, my soul, to a project – and if I can’t do that, then I know I need to step back. I’m an all in or all out kind of person, and it’s the way that I operate both personally and professionally. So sometimes, I recognize that I have to push back to tend to my other obligations.
But how do you say no? I’m getting better at this process, but it’s still not my strong suit. I wanted to share a little bit about what I’ve learned about taking a step back, despite the understanding that it’s still a process I’m struggling with.
IS IT A “CAN’T” OR A “DON’T WANT TO” SITUATION?
We all have obligations that we don’t want to fulfill, committees that we are expected to participate in, and meetings that we can’t simply remove from our calendar. Before making the decision to step away from a commitment or say no, reflect on the pros and cons of saying yes/saying no. I typically ask myself the following questions:
Is this an opportunity for me to grow as an individual, a professional, or both?
Will this commitment enrich my life or provide me with a sense of fulfillment?
If it’s something I’m not incredibly excited about taking on, will there be valuable skills or powerful connections that I will gain from this experience?
Is the thought of taking this commitment on giving me a negative gut reaction? Am I feeling anxious about being able to fit this commitment in with my other obligations? (If yes, SAY NO! Right away. Please.)
I ask myself these questions because I recognize that sometimes I don’t want to take something on because I don’t feel like it, despite the long-term gains that this obligation will afford to me. Weighing out the pros and cons of adding a new commitment helps me to determine whether my desire to say no is a result of my inability to commit, or my lack of desire to participate.
COMMUNICATE EARLY AND OFTEN
If you’re taking on a commitment and need to step away, remember that others are depending on you – so communicate right away. If things have changed for you, people are often understanding if you tell them right away and find ways to ameliorate the situation as soon as possible.
I had to step away from one of the three committees that I was a part of in my congregation. I didn’t communicate my needs as well as I should have, and I bowed to the pressure of the committee members really wanting me to participate. I ended up frustrating everybody with my difficult schedule, not being able to commit to meetings, and having to communicate that I could not give my full self and insight to the group’s activities. I knew that my colleagues were depending on me, and I allowed my fear of letting others down to get in the way.
FIND OPPORTUNITIES TO SAY YES, AND STICK WITH THEM AS BEST YOU CAN
If an opportunity presents itself to you, you’re able to commit to it, and you’re excited about it, say YES! and do your best to commit to it even as your schedule fills up. There are certain social and professional obligations that I absolutely love being a part of, even if the added pressure of the commitment can weigh heavily on me during peak advising times. I try to remind myself of why I joined the group or added the obligation to my calendar, and do my best to push forward. Alternatively, I step back a little bit (without quitting) the commitment and then put my whole heart and soul into the obligation when I’m able to.
Originally posted on Life in the Yellowhammer State.
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Podcast With Conor McLaughlin on SA Work-Life Balance