The Art of Saying No: Strategies for Taking Control of Your Time
Tips for busy RNs just in time for the holidays!
Being a nurse can leave you feeling like a rubber band: constantly pulled in every direction. It’s not just your patients either — managers, colleagues, family and even friends can sometimes also tug you this way and that. And, just like a rubber band, if you’re stretched too far, something is liable to snap. The only way to avoid that is to recognize your own limits and learn when and how to say no. This is all the more important around the holidays, when you may have to juggle extra shifts, staff parties and family visits.
Why It’s Hard
Saying no is tough in our society, and it can be tougher still for nurses, who are encouraged to put others’ needs before their own. Do you often feel guilty about turning people down, take on too much because you enjoy the feeling of being needed, or worry that you’re selfish and uncooperative for refusing a request or invitation? You’re far from alone!
Unfortunately, some people are quick to take advantage of such anxieties. Accept a task once or twice as a favor for a colleague or your manager and you may find that chore added to your expected regular duties. “Just this once” can become “all the time” if you’re uncomfortable with confrontation or setting boundaries.
It can also be tough to say no when you’re faced with too much of a good thing. For instance, you might be presented with multiple opportunities that would support your most cherished goals and dreams (like speaking at a professional conference overseas or joining your hospital’s shared governance committee) — but that you know in your heart of hearts you don’t have the time or energy to engage.
Three Good Reasons to Say No
If you’re like most nurses, you don’t need more excuses to say yes. Instead, take inspiration from these excellent reasons for saying no:
- You’ll respect yourself more — and so will others. Surprisingly, this usually includes the people you turn down, something I’ve proved to myself countless times. If you tell someone, “When I take something on, I like to give it my all, but I’ve found I can’t do that if I spread myself too thin — and I feel fully committed right now,” it’s a rare person who won’t nod appreciatively. Frequently, they’ll immediately back off with a comment like, “I know just what you mean; I’m like that too.”
- You’ll encourage people to come up with their own creative solutions. If you say yes any time someone requests your help or advice, you may be depriving them of an opportunity to develop their own resourcefulness and problem-solving skills. Those who have been preceptors or instructors know, that learners need opportunities for hands-on practice, even if it means making some mistakes.
- You’ll be able to enjoy other activities more wholeheartedly. If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed, cutting back on commitments is one of the best ways to correct that situation. This is one of the best reasons of all! Without the downward drag on your spirits that comes from feeling tired, stressed out, guilty and inwardly resentful, you’ll feel lighter, more joyful and more fully attentive to the activities and projects to which you do say yes.
Setting the Right Tone
While saying no can be enormously beneficial, neither you nor others will reap those benefits unless you can do so gracefully. Declining in a way that is tactful and thoughtful conveys respect for the other person and yourself. Another piece of advice: Keep it short! Most of us use far too many words when all we really mean to say is, “No, thanks!” Conciseness is the essence of confidence. If you sound sure, people usually will accept that your mind is made up and won’t try to argue you out of your decision.