How to Say ‘Yes’ Without Losing Your Sanity

by Vicki Voisin, ACP

When we were children, saying ‘No’ was never an option. Think about this. When you were a child, did you dare tell your parents or your teachers ‘No’? Absolutely not! So it’s ingrained in us to never refuse anyone and to always say ‘Yes’ when we’re asked to do something.

Then came that awful ‘Pick Me!’ stage. This hit us in about the third grade when we gladly raised our hands and waved them wildly, just hoping we’d be picked by the teacher…even if being picked meant we had to do some work for her. We were pleasers. We wanted to be liked. Volunteering became a way of life.

Adulthood brought a whole new set of issues. Suddenly we were swamped with too much work and too many responsibilities. Most of us operate in a constant state of overwhelm and the demands for our help keep coming…from family, from friends, from co-workers and from the boss. We are pulled in a million different directions. We know the only way to untangle this mess is to stand up and say ‘NO’ very clearly and emphatically but we choke on that tiny word because, deep down inside, we think we have no right to say it. What should we do? The answer is simple:

Just say ‘Yes’ and make everyone happy! I can hear all of you now: “Vicki…Are you crazy? I already have so much to do, I’m going bananas…and you want me to say ‘Yes’ to everything else?”

This is exactly what you should do. It’s much easier to say ‘Yes’ but when you do that, you have to set boundaries. In fact, if you don’t set boundaries, you will lose your sanity and any control you have over your life.

Consider this situation: It’s the end of the month and you have huge deadlines looming. One of the partners in the firm shows up at your door with a project that has to be done then and now. Here’s how you can say ‘Yes’…

Yes…IF you give me access to a secretary.

Yes…BUT I can’t work on that until this afternoon.

Yes…AND someone else will have to take care of the exhibits.

Yes…WHEN you give me all the information I need to do the job.

Yes…WILL YOU be able to help with some part of this?

This works in all sorts of situations. ‘Yes, I can work at the registration desk at the seminar IF a slot is available for me on Friday from 9-11 a.m.’ or ‘Yes, I will donate food to the school festival BUT baking 100 cupcakes won’t fit in my schedule so I’ll have to bring something I can pick up at the deli.’

The key is to be cooperative and, at the same, come up with a situation that will work for you. This is much easier than saying ‘No’ and following that with an excuse. Now, I know excuses aren’t required but there’s hardly a person who can say ‘No’ without giving a reason. And no one wants to hear you’re too busy or you don’t have time. They will be much more willing to work with you if you give them options.

Don’t forget to say ‘Yes’ to yourself. This ‘Yes’ is the most important one. We are all presented with opportunities and challenges that may seem scary or impossible because we’ll have to step outside our comfort zone and leave our security blanket behind. Instead of accepting the challenge and embracing the journey, we hang on to the past and offer up excuses why we can’t…not enough time, not enough ability, etc. To move forward, to evolve, to become all that we can be, we have to say YES to the challenge. You may not be the person who can do this when you start but I can guarantee you will grow and become that person. You do have the ability to reach the next level and you will rise to the occasion. But only if you say ‘Yes’ to yourself.

Your challenge: Be prepared to say ‘Yes’ the next time you’re asked to help with a project…but be ready to set your boundaries and limitations. Then be open to new challenges and new journeys as they come your way. Choose greatness over mediocrity. Know that you have the ability and the capacity to take yourself to the next level, to do anything you want, to be anything you want…but only if you say ‘Yes’ to the journey. Do this for yourself.

© 2008 Vicki Voisin, Inc.

Do you want to use this article in your newsletter, e-zine or website? You can, so long as you include this entire blurb with it: Vicki Voisin, also known as The Paralegal Mentor, publishes the bi-weekly ezine ‘Strategies for Paralegals Seeking Excellence’ where she offers tips for paralegals and others who want to create lasting success in their personal and professional lives. Get tips and information at no cost at www.paralegalmentor.com.