Stressed? How to say ‘No’

Many people find it difficult to say ‘no’ to any request.  Being assertive is an art and, as with other arts, we need to learn the skill of how to refuse a request without affecting the relationship. The ‘yes/no’ response may appear to be an uncontroversial subject but in fact, our decision to agree, or to refuse, a specific request may impact not only the outcome of a particular issue, but also our profile and reputation – and possibly upon our own self-image.  So it is important to learn how to be confident and direct in dealing with others and being able to say ‘no’ without giving offence.

Sometimes we put themselves in invidious situations by accepting additional work when we have neither sufficient time, nor possibly the ability, to complete. The consequences are often disappointment by both parties that often leads to psychological stress and reduced self-esteem.

Being non-assertive effectively surrenders control to others.  By comparison, being assertive means standing up for your personal rights and expressing your thoughts in ways that are not detrimental to the rights of others.

Assertive people take responsibility for their own actions and choices, and even in cases of failure, their self confidence and self respect will remain intact.

However, in the workplace, saying ‘no’ could have a negative impact on our careers, particularly if the request or order is entirely reasonable and within our ability.  Therefore, we need to be careful not to be seen to be unhelpful or unsupportive.

It’s really OK to say ‘No’…  

To be able to say ‘no’ to unrealistic or inconvenient demands from work colleagues, is not the easiest decision to make when our job is of the utmost importance to us and to the financial security of our family. It is even more difficult when we know that there is often someone else who will invariably say ‘yes’ in order to improve their own position on the promotion list.

Understanding why we invariably find it so difficult, is important because  very often we have grown up in circumstances where we are expected to be compliant, particularly to demands from those in authority.

Many of us believe that to refuse a request may lead to being seen as: 

  • Damaging our promotion
  • An inability to cope
  • An uncommitted team player
  • One who is always concerned with self, and not others
  • Rude or un-cooperative

However, a continuous disregard for our own welfare can result in stress-related problems that can impair our personal performance either temporarily, or, sometimes permanently.

How and when to say ‘No’

How do we, therefore, reasonably, reject inappropriate demands at work?  The answer is in creating a culture of respect in which to decline an unreasonable request will be seen not as a mark of weakness but rather as a position of strength. Furthermore, to suggest another way to achieve the required result, without compromising our personal wellbeing, is an acceptable alternative.

Those of us with high self-esteem find it easier to say ‘no’ than those with a low-self image. The latter often attempt to seek praise and affirmation from colleagues and will invariably always agree to any request, notwithstanding the harm it can do by compromising their health and wellbeing.

Learning to saying ‘no’, to inappropriate requests can actually boost our self-esteem. It obviates resentment about being forced into situations that are unreasonable, and deflects stress by feeling that we are in control of our own welfare.

Stressed? Saying ‘no’ is an essential tool, but in a highly competitive world, think very carefully before declining a demand that may be entirely reasonable, and always: 

  • Give your reasons clearly and concisely, when refusing a demand or declining an offer
  • Suggest alternatives that are reasonable and positive
  • Avoid surrendering control by eventually saying ‘yes’ under pressure.

 It is important to note that it is unrealistic to expect someone who is not naturally assertive to be able to change overnight.   If may feel quite awkward at first and it will take time for their new skills to become a habit.   But I am sure you will be pleased with the results and do let me know how you get on.

Key Learning Points

  • Be clear about the request: how you feel and what you want
  • Keep calm, stick to the facts and suggest an alternative
  • Respect the rights, and wants, of the other person

[Reprinted with the kind permission of Gulf News]

Book Keynote Motivational Speaker, Entrepreneur, BBC guest-broadcaster and best-selling Author, Carole Spiers in person for your next conference for charismatic, high-impact work related stress presentations and organisational change strategies.

Stressed?  What is stress? See Carole live http://bit.ly/TUWbX  or check-out our latest ideas about workplace stress, stress management training, instant access to stress reduction products http://bit.ly/FjL5L  and stress management training aimed to reduce stress and delivered to blue-chip clients from IBM to Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company in UK, Dubai, UAE and worldwide at www.carolespiersgroup.co.uk

Connect with Carole on LinkedIn: http://linkd.in/f2onIA 

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Stress Tips: Glass Ceilings Can Be Shattered

Earlier this month we saw the hundredth International Women’s Day celebrated around the world, and I was reminded of when I established my own stress consultancy, over 20 years ago. That was a time when were no social networking groups, personal computers, mobile phones or email.   My vision was to offer a counselling service to bring a much needed support facility to employees experiencing stress, bereavement or trauma – all events which resulted in increased absenteeism, low morale and poor productivity.

‘Fast-forward’ 20 years and I often wonder whether it’s any easier in 2011 for today’s working woman to succeed in setting-up her own business or in climbing up the corporate ladder.  The pressure of managing a work-life balance is a reality for most women in the workplace – whether she is a director or a secretary. Even with support, there is often a role conflict in being a working mother. And in today’s high-tech, high pressure workplace, women have to find a way to assuage the inevitable feelings of guilt that sometimes rise to the surface. Then there is the issue of the ‘glass ceiling’ that is said to pose a challenge to the promotion of women. It refers to situations where a qualified, often executive, female within the hierarchy of an organisation, is obstructed from advancement because of some form of gender discrimination’.

In fact, in this month’s Newsweek, Hillary Clinton discusses how she’s shattering glass ceilings everywhere.  Many executive female clients of mine have said that you have to be seen to be more or less androgynous in order to get to the top.  There is no doubt that in America, women have been steadily breaking the barriers to advancement for over 100 years.  Mrs Clinton didn’t quite manage to break the “highest glass ceiling” to make her the first female president in America’s history, but her 2008 campaign was the most overt bid so far to highlight her gender.

Gender Challenges

Certainly there are women in our senior boardrooms who have climbed the corporate ladder but I am told by many female Executives that in order to stay at the top, they feel they must never take their ‘eye off the ball’ for a second and they have to learn to live with this constant pressure.  On the other hand, I am also told that men in female-dominated profession, such as education or nursing, also face their own ‘glass ceiling’, so that this can be a problem to both genders, in certain circumstances.

Women’s Support Networks

It is generally acknowledged, however, that women, in general, are often good communicators and this can be seen in the numbers who will spend time on business and social networks, making use of their time to market themselves and their interests.  Of course, this is by no means a female dominated activity, but maybe they are more aware of the importance of links both within immediate circles and outside.

Women’s Conferences addressing many issues of local, national and international concern, increasingly take place around the world and I am delighted to have been invited to deliver a keynote speech at the Global Woman Summit in Washington DC, next October, being opened by First Ladies, America’s Michelle Obama and Malaysia’s Datin Paduka Seri Rosmah.  I am proud to be joining various high-profile, internationally acclaimed women from diverse professions such as politics, medicine, local government, commerce, industry and policing who will be speaking at this prestigious event enabling delegates to network and socialise in order to make valuable new contacts and to learn and develop new skills. Women from every corner of the world will be represented and I imagine that there will be an energy in that Summit hall that you will be able to touch!

But, back to today, and with three months of 2011 already gone, I wonder if you are on track in your business and your career path? Because, in this, there is no gender issue. It is a matter of commitment, dedication, motivation and inspiration and for that it is immaterial whether you are male or female.

Key Points

  • Women in the workplace do face special challenges
  • Although there are ‘glass ceilings, they can be broken, everywhere
  • Commitment and dedication are not gender specific

[Reprinted with the kind permission of Gulf News]

Book Keynote Motivational Speaker, Entrepreneur, BBC guest-broadcaster and best-selling Author, Carole Spiers in person for your next conference for charismatic, high-impact work related stress presentations and organisational change strategies.

What is stress? See Carole live http://bit.ly/TUWbX  or check-out our latest ideas about workplace stress, stress management training, instant access to stress reduction products http://bit.ly/FjL5L  and stress management training aimed to reduce stress and delivered to blue-chip clients from IBM to Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company in UK, Dubai, UAE and worldwide at www.carolespiersgroup.co.uk

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Stressed? It is important to believe in yourself …

The other day, I was sitting with a group of City of London investment bankers who told me that they felt under-valued and unappreciated by their departmental managers.

Readers of this blog will know that this is something that I feel very strongly about and it reminded me of the days when I used to visit inmates in one of Britain’s oldest prisons, Wormwood Scrubs, in London, as a crisis helpline volunteer.

During one visit, a tall, thin prisoner came to speak to me and confided that he was serving a sentence of 18 months and was desperately missing his wife, and his 7 year old son whom he only spoke to infrequently. I asked him if he could write to his son, but alas, he told me that he couldn’t write.  He had often stayed away from school, having been more interested in smoking and spending time  with his friends, rather than trying to gain an education for himself.

Self-belief

Aware that the Prison Service offered reading and writing classes, I suggested that he could use his time, locked-up in prison to learn to read and write.  But he said that he thought that being over 40 years old, he was too old to learn.

‘You are never too old to learn’, I told him. ‘You can do this if you really want to.  I really believe in you and your being able to read and write would make such a difference to your life.  You could send a letter to your son every every day and he could write back to you.  Remember only YOU can make a difference to your life.  I know that you can do this, if you really try!’.  I could tell from his face that he was surprised to receive such an encouraging response, which was gratifying to me as I thought that my words had fallen on deaf ears.

At 3pm the bell rang for all visitors to leave and I had to go.  Leaving the prison with this conversation clearly in my mind, I wondered if he would, in fact, take the advice and start the lessons.  Although I give encouragement to many people, unfortunately, very often when I leave, so does their commitment to action.

In the event, 3 months later, I returned to that particular prison, and that same inmate came over to me and said, ‘Do you remember who I am?’. ‘Yes, of course’ I replied, ‘how is your son?’

The prisoner smiled, ‘He’s fine and I have a surprise for you’.  He took out two children’s books from behind his back and opened the colourful pages for me to see.  He proudly read out loud a few pages from them – then took out a letter that he had received from his son.

These were the simple words that he read to me: ‘Dear Daddy, I am so happy to receive your letters.  I love you and I miss you.  Please  come home soon so that we can play football again’.

As he read this to me, tears welled-up in my eyes.  The power of words never ceases to have an impact upon me, as indeed they did on this occasion.

I was curious to know why he had taken my advice and why  he had started to learn to read and write now when he refused to do so when he was at  school?’

He said.  ‘I was always told that I could never do anything properly.  No-one ever believed in me!  People over the years always ‘put me down’ and said I would be a failure. But you gave me faith in myself,  and I wanted to prove to myself and to you that I could do it!’

I told him how very proud of him I was and that it was a privilege for me to know that I had managed to help him to make such an important step towards self-improvement.

Now he can write to his son as often as he likes. He just needed encouragement, motivation and self-belief and I happened to be the catalyst that he needed – but the rest he did for himself.

The Power of Self-Belief

  • Encouragement can make a huge difference to someone else’s life.
  • By making assumptions about someone, you may have misjudged them.
  • It is a very humbling experience to help someone help themselves

[Reprinted with the kind permission of Gulf News]

Book Keynote Motivational Speaker, Entrepreneur, BBC guest-broadcaster and best-selling Author, Carole Spiers in person for your next conference for charismatic, high-impact work related stress presentations and organisational change strategies.

See Carole live http://bit.ly/TUWbX  or check-out our latest ideas about workplace stress, stress management training, instant access to stress reduction products http://bit.ly/FjL5L  and stress management training aimed to reduce stress and delivered to blue-chip clients from IBM to Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company in UK, Dubai, UAE and worldwide at www.carolespiersgroup.co.uk

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Stress at Work: Making time for your colleagues

My trip to Dubai, last month, has been an interesting time of meeting new business people, catching up with some ‘oldies’ and delivering boardroom briefings to companies who want to know how to better manage, or minimise, stress in the workplace.

From these meetings, there is one that really caught my imagination. My meeting with Prasanth Edassari, Associate Director and Head of Panasonic’s L&D in Dubai and his colleague Milburn Andrade, at their offices in Jebel Ali Free Zone, really opened my eyes to what should, in my opinion, be considered an excellent corporate model for business team bonding.

At the end of our very enjoyable meeting, Edassari said that they were leaving for their eco-lunch, and I asked him exactly what that meant.

Well in simple terms, this is a time when everyone apparently gets together and eats food from different countries which is cooked completely organically.

In addition to this, all employees receive an e-mail on how to cook organic food as part of the company’s awareness programme. Edassari told me that usually, a member of each team prepares the food for their entire department, and others take turns every month.

I asked him if the whole organisation gets involved and he told me that they do and everyone closes down their work areas and gathers in the garden [weather permitting] to have lunch together.

Community Atmosphere

I asked, “Does this succeed in making a community atmosphere where everyone participates in the social activity?” Edassari assured me that it creates a feeling of ‘oneness’ where people sit together and enjoy each other’s cuisines.

On hearing this, I was completely ‘hooked’. “Was there good conversation around the table?” I asked. “Of course,” he confirmed. “During these social sessions, we forget business and ideally talk about green initiatives and the like. It is a good opportunity to converse and make time for each other… A wonderful way of inducting new staff and workers into a business but in an informal manner. People talk about life outside of the business: their families, their children, where they live, who cooks at home, etc.” In fact, just old-fashioned conversation (When, dear reader, was the last time you indulged in relaxed, social conversation with your colleagues?).

One for nature

Edassari then continued to tell me that apart from their monthly eco-lunch, they have get-togethers for anyone celebrating an occasion, which includes the cutting of a cake and the planting of saplings by each celebrant, in their garden, as a contribution to nature.

And every December, they have a one-week event where snacks, tea and coffee are served to all staff from 3-4pm, which is followed by mini-soccer leagues which includes the senior management members too.

At Panasonic’s local operation in Dubai, I am told there are many different ethnic nationalities who all learn to respect each other’s values, beliefs, rituals and festivals.

This helps everyone bridge cultural gaps and work collectively for the common goal of creating ‘Better Ideas for Life’ — Panasonic’s brand slogan.

The lesson? Within the frenetic pace of life in which we all live, here are a group of business people who are encouraged to:

•    Make time for each other.

•    Respect and value each other’s cultural differences.

•    Think and act positively regarding the environment.

•    Help everyone to feel valued and recognised.

And, by the way, I don’t have any shares in Panasonic, but I would rather like to have a job there in order to get invited to an eco-lunch — and even have a piece of cake on my birthday!

Key points: How will it help?

  • An understanding of cultural differences is essential.
  • Team building is helped by social intercourse.
  • Care for the environment and it will care for you.

[Reprinted with the kind permission of Gulf News]

Book Keynote Motivational Speaker, Entrepreneur, BBC guest-broadcaster and best-selling Author, Carole Spiers in person for your next conference for charismatic, high-impact workplace stress management presentations and organisational change strategies.

See Carole live http://bit.ly/TUWbX  or check-out our latest ideas about workplace stress, stress management training, instant access to stress reduction products http://bit.ly/FjL5L  and stress management training aimed to reduce stress and delivered to blue-chip clients from IBM to Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company in UK, Dubai, UAE and worldwide at www.carolespiersgroup.co.uk

 

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