Learn to say NO


fullsizeoutput_4e33The most important two-letter word a women can use is “no.” Many women have a tendency to overextend themselves to accommodate others, and end up saying “yes” to things they do not want to do nor have time to do. As a result, they may be unable to do the most value-added work to further their goals or engage in activities that bring them personal fulfillment. Also, being unable to say “no” can make women resentful–of both themselves and others. Lastly, the inability to say “no” devalues a woman’s interactions and relationships with others because her responses and behavior are not genuine.

Why do some women have difficulty saying “no”? Culturally, women are encouraged to be people pleasers. Many women also struggle with the need to be liked by others, and believe if they turn down requests people will be angry or disappointed. Women also carry a great deal of responsibility for the emotional well-being of others, such as children, spouses, and parents. It takes work to develop the ability to set boundaries, but if women wish to have power in the workplace and live fulfilled lives, they must create power parameters for themselves. This begins with a woman understanding herself, her needs, and the typical demands that are placed on her. Next, she needs to assess those demands, decide what is most important to her, and then build boundaries around them that other requests cannot supersede. Creating power parameters helps ensure a woman can manage her life more to her own satisfaction and also helps others understand what is and is not negotiable.

There are ways a woman can say “no” that become a win-win for everyone. For example, turning down a request but nominating someone else for whom the request would be a good opportunity is one approach. Couching proposed solutions in terms of benefits to the entire group rather than just herself is another approach (for example, negotiating a flexible work schedule that will accommodate family needs but also maximize work performance).

One area that can be particularly challenging for women: balancing work and family. Even with the strides that have been made in equalizing the sexes in the workplace (and at home as well), the bulk of familial and home responsibilities still tend to fall on women. Unfortunately, though many companies espouse work/life balance, in more than a few there is an unspoken culture that still puts work ahead of family life. To not adhere to that culture is to risk advancement opportunities. This is a struggle that both men and women will continue to encounter.

There is one person a woman should say “yes” to much more often: herself. The more a woman can take time for herself, indulge in simple pleasures, and set the power parameters that will bring her the most fulfillment, the more confident she will be of her right to say “no.”

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