Setting boundaries is challenging for many of us. Often, I hear the following or some variation of it from my clients –

  • If I can help, I must – from those who love to help and solve problems.
  • I am the best person to help – from people who have been in the organization for a long time and know its evolution, ways of working, and people.
  • If I say ‘no’ now, someone else will get this opportunity – from new lateral hires in the organization.
  • People are used to coming to me for help – from tenured leaders who have grown within the organization.
  • How can I say ‘no’ to them? I know them – from professionals who have grown with the organization.
  • My boss starts sending messages at 7 pm and expects an immediate response – from several mid-senior executives.
  • Finally – People do not accept ‘no’ from me! They push till I relent – from those who struggle to be assertive.

They are all smart, dedicated, and ambitious. They have jam-packed schedules and no time for themselves or their family. They are stressed and sleep deprived. And all of them have colleagues who look less harassed and have better control over their schedules. 

Do you see yourself in any of the above descriptions?

Whether it is the desire to fit in, be liked, be helpful, or the idea that you don’t have a choice that drives your behavior, remember that what you say ‘yes’ to shapes your life just as much as what you say ‘no’ to. Every decision and action we take tells the world what to expect from us and how to interact with us. Here are five more reasons why getting comfortable with saying ‘no’ is essential –

  • Working long hours consistently and struggling to meet your deadlines gets you anxious and may compromise the quality of your work.
  • You can get frustrated and disengaged when you consistently bite off more than you can chew.
  • Your boss will likely assume you know how to set healthy boundaries. They may not realize you are working beyond your capacity if you do not speak up.
  • Some managers are workaholics and assume that you are as well.
  • Managers who do not have responsibilities outside of their work may not realize what is possible for others in a reasonable workday.
  • It takes time away from your family and loved ones.

Saying no respectfully and assertively demonstrates that you value your time, understand your priorities, and want to deliver quality work. So, next time before acceding to a request, ask yourself –

  • Is this choice aligned with my priorities and what I want to pay attention to?
  • Is this the best use of my time?
  • Is this the precedence I want to set?
  • By saying yes to this, what am I saying no to?

You will find that being persuasive is more effective than being pushy in setting boundaries. More enforceable limits are created through clear conversations and a collaborative approach. You must also expect your boundaries to be challenged. There will be emergencies and situations when you gain something from being flexible. It is easier to make peace with yourself when you know that you are making a conscious choice.

PS – Is setting boundaries a challenge for you? Book your complimentary consult to discover how I can help.