No, No, No — Go On Just Say it
I know those words will feel like they don’t go together. As grads we are supposed to say yes to almost anything. Our placements take up the vast majority of our work but the extra stuff is also part of the deal, if you want it to be. We get the opportunity to work on some exciting projects outside of our day role but what that means is we can end up saying yes to a lot of things and all of a sudden find we are overwhelmed and stuck with a lot on our plates — when we already feel full. I guess this is more about not saying yes to everything as well — it’s about being in control of the decisions we’re making and feeling like it’s okay to say no. As a graduate I knew there was lots I could get involved in, and I often did but someone wise once told me “don’t sign yourself up to everything because you’ll end up with lots of different commitments and doing them all just okay”. And they were right, one thing was enough, for me at least. Now if you feel like you can juggle everything and you like the challenge that is excellent. Equally, if you feel like you can only deal with one things that also brilliant. It’s about knowing what you’re comfortable with and having tools to maintain that.
My current book ‘How to Have a Good Day’ By Caroline Webb, it’s fast becoming one of my favourites. The book is all about workload and being overwhelmed, she explores the reasons why people have a good day and why others don’t. As humans we avoid difficult conversations, it’s just in our nature. We don’t like feeling awkward and we feel like saying no to something is too hard and just end up saying yes. We’ve all done it and it’s after that we realise “shit, I really don’t have time for that”, then we find ourselves plotting ways to get out of it and that then takes up more time than actually doing the task altogether. It sometimes feels like a never ending cycle and you end up having stern words with yourself about how you won’t let this happen again. Followed by the next week and it happens all over again. I remember a lecturer of mine told me “never say yes right on the spot, let people know you’ll get back to them once you’ve looked at what you’ve got on” I always thought that was a good technique because it meant you weren’t forced into an answer straight the way. But Carolines suggests that we should feel confident in saying no because you can make the experience a positive one.
Say someone asks you to get involved in a project working on something of interest. You’re excited by it but you were just saying this morning how overwhelmed you feel and how much you’ve got on. You’ve stayed late for the past three nights and you know you can’t really take on anything else — in fact you’ve got a meeting tomorrow with your boss about work load. You could say: “I’m really sorry but I’m really busy at the moment, I just can’t commit the time or effort” and that feels like an okay thing to say, you were upfront and direct about it and the message is clear. I think what we actually say in reality is “Yes that sounds great, let me know the details, I’ve got loads of time let me help” — this is obviously bad and not true… but we all do it. Webb says the best thing to do is the following “That sounds like a really exciting project, I’m chuffed you asked me to help out. As a team we’ve got quite a lot on at the moment, in fact I’ve got a meeting with my manager tomorrow about it, unfortunately it means I’m going have to let go of any other commitments I’ve got currently, so I won’t be able to help out. I’d be happy to put you in touch with some other people I think would love this? Let me know” As Webb explains in her book, this makes people feel less like you’ve just rejected them, they feel good because you’ve given context to why you are declining their offer and you’ve offered to help if they want it.
As I’m learning, young people entering the work place are likely to have their well-being wobbled as they are just starting out. It’s important we feel empowered to take on as much as we can handle. Don’t get me wrong, being graduate is a great time to say yes to a load of fun exciting things but if you feel like you’ve got too much on, try using Webb’s technique to say no.
Originally published at https://www.careerhealth.info on March 17, 2020.