‘No’ is not a bad word

“You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to,” said my mother to me as a small child, and there began a spectacular backfiring for my parents when I repeatedly refused to go to school.

I was that child that said ‘no’ often and with feeling, and I am that adult saying the same. I have never seen it as a bad thing. But as an adult in the workplace, I have learned to follow ‘no’ with “I can’t do that, but I could do this.”

Using ‘no’ in this way shows that you are capable of prioritising tasks and have trust in your own judgement. It also helps build resilience because you are clearly signalling where your boundaries are.

When you’re asked to do something and say no but offer an alternative, it demonstrates adaptability and your willingness to collaborate, and who doesn’t want to work with colleagues like that?

Saying no can be a particular stumbling block for women because we are often (not so much in my case!) taught from an early age to be obliging, to do as we’re told, and not to refuse anyone.

We need to get used to saying no, and the more we say “No, but…”, the more people will get used to it. If we openly accept and welcome others saying no to us too, it becomes part of our workplace culture, and it shouldn’t cause conflict.

So don’t be afraid to say no because it can lead you and your workmates to other, better things.

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