Stressed Out? This Holiday Season Just Say “NO”


Holiday stress


It’s the holidays – the hardest time to say no to people demanding you do the gift shopping for your mother or stop by a holiday party that deep inside you don’t feel you want to do. It's a real skill to to learn to say 'no' tactfully, graciously, and without offense. 

Jill Brooke, author of The Need to Say "No", offers a few tips to resist the time demands that undermine your peace and happiness. I have a few of my own I've added.

It is OK to say "NO". The word no is baked into the word kNOwledge.  Assess a value system to everything about how much time it requires whether it’s a task outside of your job description or that chocolate éclair that requires an extra hour at the gym to work off. “No, not now but perhaps later”  is a perfectly fine response.

Hold to your boundaries.  Whether a relative or friend is bossing you around to create holiday parties or hosting doddering Dad for the week since “you’re so good at it”, bullies target empathetic people but don’t let yourself get used. “ Have boundaries of what you are comfortable doing and not doing. As long as you say your 'no' confidently and calmly, you will get results. Bullies then move on and target other people.

Assert your position, don't try to change theirs.  A colleague is suggesting a project that you see as futile and unproductive or you hear someone gossiping and wanting you to join in.  You can say “I see your position. I understand that is the way you are thinking. But no, I am not comfortable doing that.” Or , "I think we will have to agree to disagree on that position."

Say "NO" kindly and mean it.  You can say no without a future yes. For example,  a friend or relative calls asking for yet another favor in your jam-packed holiday schedule. “Because I am a perfectionist, I want to always do a good job. No, I can’t commit to another project at this time but maybe later”, might be your response. Or you can say, "No, I can't at this time. Good luck with it. "


Understand that saying "NO" is a healthy decision. "No" is a choice not a scolding. Say it with a smile in a calm voice that won't invite debate. "No, that doesn't work for me" is not selfish but the construction of  a protective shield against the onslaught of countless requests that truly undermine our ability to focus on what is important such as meaningful friends, family and work.

The two biggest tips I can share about saying NO are these:

* Pause before you say yes. Giving yourself 24 hours to "think about it" will help you to figure out how much you really want to do something — or not do it. It also will give you time to think of a reasonable way out.

* The less you explain yourself the better. Just say NO without detailing why you can't pick up the cake for the office holiday party or why you can't come in and finish something the weekend before Christmas. "No, I can't do it" is a good enough explanation.


In his recent blog post, advertising guru Bruce Turkel points out: 

When you say “no” you establish who you are, what you stand for, and — most importantly — what you will and will not do in a given situation. And whether you’re an advertising agency desperately trying to make payroll; an unwilling young woman being offered another drink at a fraternity kegger; an elected official being told by their party leaders to change course on an issue that they promised to their constituency; or an artist debating changing a piece of artwork in order to have it hung in a gallery, getting the “yes” you want often comes down to your ability to say “no.”

Turkel says:  “No” might very well be the most powerful word in the English language… “What part of ‘no’ didn’t you understand?” says it all about as clearly and succinctly as any comeback you can employ.

I, like most of you, want to be agreeable and liked. I don’t like to say “no.” I makes me uncomfortable, especially during the holidays when everyone is supposed to be spreading cheer. But Turkel explains that saying no in the long run is actually a nicer way to go.  

"What’s nice about agreeing to a task that you already know you’re not going to be able to complete well or on time? What’s nice about saying “yes” to a social engagement that you don’t want to go to, don’t have time to attend, and will probably wind up blowing off? And even if you’re not concerned about being nice to the person asking you to do something, what’s nice about putting yourself under the pressure of doing something you don’t want to do?" Turkel asks.

Here's the point he makes that I really appreciate:  unless we’re willing to draw our line in the sand and say “no,” then we can’t really achieve the outcome we want. Ironically, sometimes the only way to get to “yes” is to start with “no.”

So, instead of driving yourself into a state of overwhelm over the holidays, you might want to try out your "NO!"  If you learn how to use it effectively now, you will be well positioned for a less stressful 2014.

The Work/Life Balancing Act

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