Although it might feel awkward at times, learning to push back on requests that don’t work for you is so important. I know this from personal experience and having coached many people who resist it because they’re uncomfortable putting their needs first.
It’s interesting how we change over time in terms of assertiveness. In my late 20’s I remember being unsure about ordering takeaway over the phone in case I stuffed it up. In my 30’s I was a people pleaser at work, deriving self-worth from making sure everyone had what they needed. In my early 40’s I began to say no, or not yet, and not feel bad about it. But that was through necessity. I became sick trying to do it all without asking for help or putting my needs before the needs of others.
So many people I coach struggle to say no to requests that don’t suit them. I’ve noticed two main reasons for this:
💜 We’re too busy juggling tasks that we don’t have our day mapped out clearly. This means there’s no obvious ‘reason’ not to down tools and so we end up looking after someone else’s priorities rather than our own. Spend 10 minutes each afternoon planning the next day. You’ll feel so much more in control.
💜 We don’t want to seem unhelpful and worry too much about what other people think. I’m a firm believer that we can only help others if we help ourselves first. We don’t have to flatly refuse to help, we can simply negotiate a timeframe that works for both parties.
Next time someone asks you to help them unexpectedly, follow these steps:
1. Resist the urge to say yes immediately
2. Ask more questions about what they need and why
3. Let them know what you’d planned to do in that timeframe
4. If it’s going to significantly change your day, say, “I’m sorry, I’m not able to help right now” and negotiate a timeframe that works for you
It’ll feel awkward to start with, but it’ll get easier, you’ll be far more productive and you’ll train other people to think further ahead.