Do you ever have trouble saying no? I've written here before about how to say no, but sometimes fear gets in the way of following the process I suggested. That's where Nanette Gartrell's new book, My Answer is No . . . If That's Okay with You: How Women Can Say No and (Still) Feel Good About It comes in handy.
MEN: Keep reading! In spite of the sub-title, this book will also help you say no. And if you are powerful enough not to ever have trouble saying no, this book will help you make it easier for those around you to disagree with you constructively. That's probably good for you and good for them. So read on!
Gartrell devotes chapters of her book to common situations in which we might like to say no, but find that difficult. There are chapters on saying no to loved ones, friends, bosses, coworkers, medical practitioners and charitable organizations.
Work related situations that might require you to say no include:
- Employees who frequently ask for indulgences at the expense of you, the organization or other employees.
- Employees who are performing poorly - confronting them is a version of having to say no.
- Firing employees who don't belong on your team anymore.
- Speaking up when co-workers are not pulling their load.
- Requests from your boss that conflict with your ethical standards, or that you believe are just plain wrong.
- Requests for help that end up with you working long hours and still not getting your own stuff done.
- Receiving emails you don't need to see (for example, CYA memos).
- Strong suggestions from the boss to hire his nephew, when you know the kid isn't right for the job.
- And so on.
Saying no to one thing allows you to say yes to something else. Time is the only thing you cannot get more of; the only thing you cannot bank for a rainy day. I don't know about you, but I want to spend more time on things that are central to my mission in life, and less time on things that aren't.
Gartrell provides a framework for saying no in each situation. All the frameworks have a common first step: figuring out what you are afraid of losing. Fear of loss often keeps us from saying no. For example, we might avoid saying no to a project at work - even if we believe it will hurt the company - because we are afraid we will lose the boss's respect. Naming what we are afraid of losing helps us balance that loss against the potential gains of saying no.
Finding folks who support you can help make a no feel less dangerous.
Use "I" messages when saying no - don't attack them with "you" statements. "I have more on my plate than I can handle," will work better than, "You constantly overload me with more tasks than I can handle."
The book isn't perfect. It would have benefited from a first chapter laying out a generalized framework for saying no. I would also have appreciated a bit more academic information - the book is based on interviews with women and on the author's private practice; I would have liked information on the research into saying no. Bottom line, though: If you have any trouble saying no in any situation, this book will help.
My favorite quote from the book: "Hey, on the seventh day even God said no!" - Reverend Dr. Susan Newman. My second favorite quote: "I think that maturity is figuring out the difference between giving generously and giving yourself away." - Jewelle Gomez.
Gartrell is a professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco.
Book details: Published by Free Press January 1, 2008; 272 pages; ISBN= 1416546936