Many of us just hate saying the word ‘no’ - even when we don’t want to do something or don’t feel we’ve got time to do it. It’s because deep down we don’t like to think that people will be annoyed or disappointed with us.
For example, you’ve got a pile of work on your desk and it’s coming up to the weekend. Your boss asks you to prepare a report which is needed for first thing Monday morning. You know that if you say ‘yes’ it will mean you taking it home and working on it over the weekend… but you’ve other plans. Do you agree to do it because you feel that if you don’t it will be held against you when your annual assessment comes round? Or do you feel confident enough to explain the situation?
You’ll note that I say ‘explain the situation’ rather than simply saying ‘no’. If you are to develop your assertiveness but still remain polite and avoid offending people then you need to have good communication skills. For example, in this situation you could explain to your boss that you already have a heavy workload but that if he could get someone to help you with it then you would be happy to prepare the report. Or, you could ask whether it was essential that the report be completed by Monday morning. Would Monday lunchtime or Monday afternoon be OK?
Now let’s take an example at home. You’ve got into the habit of babysitting for other family members – but they’ve started taking you for granted and you want to have a social life of your own. How do you avoid feeling guilty about saying ‘no’ if they ask you to look after the children? Here, you need to be able to explain quietly that you want some time for yourself. You might also try to reach a compromise – suggest you will babysit on Friday evening, but you are not available on Saturday. Or you can look after the children during the week, but not at weekends.
If you don’t learn to become assertive you can put yourself under a lot of pressure because you end up feeling annoyed and resentful but you can’t see any way out of the situation. This can lead to stress, and that isn’t good for anyone.
Obviously, because of lack of space, this is a very simplified explanation. But if you’re feeling that you need to be a little better at saying ‘no’ or making your own requirements clear then you might consider our Effective Time Management Course. Part of making sure we get the most from our time is to stop doing the things which are unproductive or which we find stressful. There’is a good section in the course on ‘Assertion Techniques’ which I think you’ll find very valuable!