I’ve had two conversations recently about the same topic, people noticing your strength in something and then hurling a responsibility at you. As if just because you are good at a task you want to be in charge of it from here on out.
In one of these conversations, I told the story of when I left my fast-paced, world-traveling fashion industry job. I was done with the industry on a whole and took a job at a nice little Italian cafe in New York’s East Village to live day to day. Here I would serve espresso and croissants and give patrons the correct change without the worry of reclaim, and be so happy in my little world. Two weeks into the job they came to me. We love you, Sandra, here are the keys to the place, please start opening at 6am each day. Wha Wha What??? The girl who trained me even said, “I didn’t get the keys for two years…” So there I was 2 weeks into my ‘cafe sabbatical’ and running the morning shift. I stink of responsibility. Everywhere I go, it happens.
But at that time I didn’t say
“No, that’s not what I am here for.”
One place I have grown stronger over the years is in my ability to say No. I have made a concerted effort to reflect on what won’t work for me and to ask for what I need in working relationships. These No’s are part of a negation of sorts. I practice this concept working with my clients when they ask for items out of my wheelhouse – sometimes it’s nice to stretch yourself, sometimes these tasks are just not what I want to be doing. Or when clients ask for things that are beyond the scope of our current program.
It’s easy for needs to expand while working on a project, but keeping clear boundaries allows for me to pace myself, to plan, and to have my work be valued. I’ve come to know that clients don’t even realize that they are going out of scope and when I speak up for myself, they are receptive to the adjusted project.
A lack of No can come from different places for each of us. For me, I’m a pleaser. I don’t want to say No because I want you to be happy, even if it makes me miserable. Just this week I practiced saying No when a project came with such a short timeframe. With a full plate and taking this new project on would have meant my attention to other work would be shelved. I grappled with saying No. I even wrote an email saying Yes, then really pushed myself to think about the stress of the timeframe and the added work. Being a pleaser is a trait that’s embedded deep…
This whole concept of No becomes a fine line of being assertive for ourselves. Whether it happens with a boss or a client, you are still accountable to yourself. I think saying No, although at the moment may feel dicey, in the long run, makes you stronger!
When people recognize your skills they want to work with you. It’s flattering, as you know you could do a stellar job, but be sure you weigh the options. Will taking on the company’s social media really help YOU in the long run. Or will it eat up your time and creativity all because you wanted to be a “team player”?
Your great achievement, whatever it is you want to do, requires YOUR time!
It’s important to practice saying No to someday master saying No.
Quick tips for reflection:
- Do not make excuses or offer up explanations. A simple “No, I can’t take that on right now” will suffice.
- For social engagements, RSVP early. Make the decision and give your reply. Wallowing in indecision will only lead to a guilted “Yes”
- Be productive in the time you are claiming as your own – whether it is completing a task or exercising – making good use of your time feeds the feeling to continue being productive.