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      Opinion: Why learning to say ‘no’ at work could improve your wellbeing

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      As an assistant it’s not always easy to say ‘no’, especially to your boss but for your wellbeing and sanity sometimes it’s important to avoid constantly saying ‘yes’. Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author, discusses why it’s important to remember to say no.

      View saying yes as filling a glass – there will come a point when you have said ‘yes’ so often the glass is over-filled and no longer functions as a glass. Whilst being flexible and adaptable, keep the value of your time, money and energy at the fore.  Here are some tips to remember when tempted to say ‘yes’ all the time:

      1. Never give more (of anything) than you can afford to lose                                                       

      While ‘selflessness’ may be praised – you need to remember to ‘affix your own mask first’.  If you are a caregiver, giving is natural to you, but you must always remember that if you are in such a role, what will happen if you have given so much of yourself you no longer have strength. This is not to say ‘be selfish’ – but always remember your own value and do not compromise it.

      1. Being amenable is a two-way process – not a means of keeping someone/something

      No matter what ‘love language’ you prefer – everyone likes a freebie (in fact, for some it’s a marketing strategy).  However, when it comes to relationships, it is so important to know that giving is a means of deepening a relationship, not a means of trying to keep one.  The moment a relationship is built on gifts where one person is always giving – perhaps because they want the relationship more than the other, it is not going to last.  The giver will begin to feel resentful, and the receiver never really committed.

      1. Saying ‘no’ takes practice

      Sometimes having a helpful – yet empowering response pre-prepared can help you when you are caught off-guard in a ‘please help me’ situation.

      Common reasons you may be reluctant to say no include:

      • Feeling guilty
      • Enjoyment of ‘being needed’
      • Feeling that you are valued or worthy because you are needed
      • Having a reputation of ‘That’s so-and-so/he’ll always be able to help.”
      • Not knowing what to say

      Practice these statements:

      1. Of course I can help but I can only do it at/by X time
      2. I only have five minutes, and I must get on with X
      3. Can I let you know at the end of the day/tomorrow?
      4. Here’s one I made earlier (give them a sample template)
      5. How would you like me to help you/What do you think is best for me to do/What would be of most help to you at this time?

      The first three also relate to another mindful moment – remind yourself never to say ‘yes’ without thinking when you are in a good mood.

      While a concern with the first three statements is sometimes. But they will stop asking me”, you may need to ask yourself – is this really a bad thing?

      With regards to points four and five, these will take some preparation, but will ultimately save you a lot of time and energy. Having a template pre-prepared, especially for things which you are commonly asked means that you can offer someone support without having to take the time to go through something step by step – and you are also encouraging them to take on the work themselves – with guidance.

      Similarly, point five requires you knowing what is in your remit to offer – so always familiarise yourself with the emotional support you are able to signpost someone to – and then empower them by asking what they feel would be best in terms of your role in helping them.

      Saying ‘no’ reminds you to value yourself and what you have to offer, once you recognise your worth, others will too.

      Dr Audrey Tang

      Dr Audrey Tang, chartered psychologist and the author of ‘The Leader’s Guide to Mindfulness’


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      Vincenzo Ferrara

      Vinny Ferrara, Staff Writer for PA Life

      All stories by: Vincenzo Ferrara