“Just say no” was a part of an anti-drug campaign in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. However, that is not how I am using this phrase. Instead, I am encouraging you to say no to a broader range of situations and people. How many times have you said yes to someone’s request for you to do one thing or another only to later wish you had thought about the request prior to offering an agreement? Maybe you aren’t the type to say yes to others’ requests. How often do you answer the phone when it rings, even if it means running across your home or jumping out of the shower? What about when someone comes to the door? How often do you answer it even when you can clearly see that it is not someone to whom you want to speak? And how often do you skip a workout or eat an unhealthy meal only to regret it later?
In his movie (Yes Man, 2008), Jim Carrey plays a man who says no to everything and the movie embraces the idea that if one only says yes to all of life’s opportunities, wonderful things will happen. This may be true in movies…but I am inclined to believe that setting some limits and boundaries is healthier.
When you don’t set limits, boundaries, and don’t say no, you leave yourself open to burnout at work, resentment in relationships, and unhappiness all around. People learn that you always say yes and begin asking you first whenever a task needs completing. This sends a message to others and, more importantly, to you that your needs, your wishes, and your limits are unimportant (or at least less important than others’).
“But, if I say no, people may not like me.”
Really? Are they your friends, family, or co-workers just because you say yes?
“My boss may have issues with me setting limits.”
If your limits are reasonable, your employer will respect your limit setting and will move on to the next ‘yes-man/woman’.
Imagine this. You are sitting in your office working on a report that is due by the end of the day. Your phone rings and you can see that it is not the boss; however, you answer the phone anyway only to be drawn into a co-worker’s drama. You end up meeting the co-worker in the breakroom where a lengthy discussion ensues. The discussion finally ends and you return to your office where it takes you 10 to 15 minutes to get your head back into the project that you now have 45 fewer minutes to complete. You end up staying late to complete the project and this makes you late for your daughter’s soccer game. You are stressed as you arrive (and have probably driven too fast) and your child feels hurt that your work took precedence over her game.
How has this helped anyone other than your co-worker? Now imagine the same scenario; however, this time when the phone rings, you can see it is not your boss and you do not answer the phone. You complete the project on time and have enough time to stop and get a pick me up beverage at the coffee shop on the way to your daughter’s game. Your daughter is all smiles to see you and you relax, sipping your beverage while you watch the entire game.
And what about your co-worker? Trust me, s/he found someone else willing to help solve the problem (hopefully someone without a deadline).
As I mentioned, this also applies to food and workouts. In a previous blog, I mentioned that I recently stepped down from my supervisor position at work. The biggest reason – stress. However, a second and nearly as important reason was the stated expectation that I routinely stay late and work weekends. I go to the gym 4-5 days per week (usually after work) and also take time for chiropractic appts and massages in order to keep my body healthy. In addition, I have an hour commute each way (to and from work). If I am working 50-60 hour weeks, I do not have the time or ability to work out, get adjusted, or have a massage. My answer, of course, was no. My health, my relationships, and my life are more important than someone else’s expectations. (In case you are wondering, no there was no extra pay for working extra hours)
Another situation comes to mind. I am much smaller now than I was 3 years ago and I do splurge now and then (within reason). However, while I was losing weight and being very careful with my caloric intake, a co-worker frequently (at least weekly) offered me sweets. I could have said yes to her homemade cookies that she swore were healthy. I knew that it hurt her feelings a little each time I said no. I also knew that she was well aware that I was trying to lose weight and her discomfort with her own weight drove her to bring sweets on a very frequent basis. She did not have to make a point of offering them to me.
My recommendation is to find your comfortable median between just saying no and being a “yes man”. Just remember, they are YOUR boundaries and you do get to choose when to keep them firm and when to make them more permeable.