Last week my friend, Steve, was talking about how overwhelmed he feels. He said he has too much to do at work, and in his “free” time, he’s busy every minute. When I asked him to elaborate, he explained that during the workday there are several co-workers who complain about all they have to do, and ask him for help. Since he wants to be a good employee and team player, he always steps up and says “yes.” Then he ends up having to do his work and theirs too, and he’s swamped.
Instead of being grateful for his help, his colleagues are then angry with him because he doesn’t have the time to do a perfect job on the projects he’s taken over for them.
Steve explained that outside of work he is on the Board of Directors for three non-profit organizations, plus he coaches his daughter’s soccer team. His wife is angry with him for never having time to spend with her or do things around the house, his golf group has given up on him because he’s always busy with something else when invited to play, and his children complain that they never see him.
Steve is so busy trying to be helpful and supportive to everyone, that he’s forgotten to take care of himself. He has no boundaries around his life, and the result is that it’s completely out of control.
The problem is that Steve hasn’t learned to say “NO!” He is afraid that if he turns people down they will think he’s selfish and won’t like him.
The reality is that he needs to take care of himself as much, or even more, than he takes care of others. If he doesn’t do this, he will end up alienating the people he cares about, will feel exhausted and miserable, and his overwhelmed body will probably get sick.
Steve has forgotten to treat himself with the same respect he gives others. It’s time for him to decide what is most important, set boundaries around his time, and learn to say “NO”.
A great phrase to use when telling someone “no” is, “I’m sorry, that doesn’t work for me.” Don’t give them reasons or explain why, because they will argue with whatever you say. Just repeat, “I’m sorry, that won’t work for me.”
The other person will be frustrated because they can’t argue and try to change your mind, but you will be standing your ground, making your boundary clear, and taking care of your needs.
It’s time to give it a try. Just say “NO!”
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