When To Say No by Cindy Stradling CSL, CPC

In a culture where doing more is often seen as more important than necessarily doing everything well, it may seem counterintuitive to say no when you are asked to take on more in your business or personal life. However, agreeing to take on more and more or accepting more in your business or personal life eventually becomes a problem.

In some situations, people do not feel comfortable stating they are uncomfortable with a specific topic or that they find a particular word offensive. The result is the same, without boundaries or the ability to say “no,” the individual feels unheard, devalued, and as if they are not important.

The Problem with the Always Yes Answer

Over time, and as you take on more work as an employee or take on more work and responsibilities as a parent, spouse, partner, or friend, your life becomes more difficult to manage. Your free time disappears, your life becomes a scheduling disaster, and you slowly begin to resent people who have asked you to do things. You also begin to resent yourself for saying yes and for being put in the position of feeling obligated to agree or not voice your opinion.

Setting Boundaries in Personal Relationships

The process of setting boundaries is often associated with personal relationships. By clearly defining the “rules” of the relationship, both partners are aware of where the lines are in the sand. This is instrumental in building trust and respect and reducing conflict since both people understand what is acceptable and unacceptable.

Of course, for boundaries to be effective, they must be communicated. If you do not know where the lines are, it is impossible to avoid stepping across them at some time. Boundaries must be communicated to be effective, and they also have to be respected, consistent, and reasonable.

Setting Boundaries in the Workplace

Boundaries at work can be universal. For example, the workday and the overtime hours are a clear, universal boundary for a specific classification of employees. The roles and responsibilities of your job create a boundary, even if it is often less obvious than work hours.

Other boundaries in the workplace can be emotional or intangible. A good example of these types of boundaries are topics of discussion at the workplace. While the company may have specific policies around what can or cannot be discussed, other issues may come up that are offensive to a particular team member. With healthy boundaries, being clear on making the request to keep the workplace free of these discussions is beneficial to all.