Stop Me Before I Volunteer Again: The Power in Saying NO
This blog post was written by Intern Queen Campus Ambassador Malon Murphy from Howard University.
College is a whirlwind of a journey. It’s a vacuum of new experiences, growth, mistakes and triumphs. As I near the end of my experience in undergrad, I am finally learning the power in saying no. Go head try it for yourself. “NO.” It feels good doesn’t it? If you’re reading this blog you’re probably a motivated and ambitious individual. That’s great -- stay this way, but be a motivated, ambitious and confident individual. Saying no is a test of confidence; in fact saying no is a skill. We have been sold this lie, that saying no makes you mean. Or even worse, we believe that if we decline an opportunity we somehow get knocked down a few notches. I mean there are a million people willing to do what you won’t, right? Well, saying no doesn’t at all make you mean and a missed opportunity doesn’t mean you fail at life.
Here is what I’ve found to be actual and factual.
It’s not about what you say, but how you say it.
One thing that has become increasingly true in the age of social media is it’s not what you say, but how you say it. Saying no doesn’t have to be aggressive or combative. You can respectfully decline using polite straightforward language. Reality is not like that catastrophic scenario in your head where you seem like a complete jerk and no one ever asks you to do anything again. Au contraire mon frère! People appreciate honesty. You come off as a more grounded and assured person. You know what you do and don’t have time for, and you are not going to stretch yourself past your limits. That is not a sign of weakness but of strength and wisdom. Saying no openly and honestly is more helpful to your counterpart because they are not investing time and energy into you and can make other arrangements. They’ll likely be grateful and may want approach you in the future if you say it right!
Never do anything, with half your heart.
In an age with college grads outnumbering jobs, there is a bit of hysteria going around. Since high school it has been drilled in you to join organizations, keep your grades up and do community service. While these are all things that are important and character building, spreading you too thin doesn’t leave much for anyone. With this heightened competition in the world and the workforce, you are a walking brand. In everything you do you should be putting your best foot forward. People should trust your ability to get the job done. Saying yes to everything and everybody will scatter your energy and concentration to really take in the valuable experience you should be getting. It’s better to excel at a few things than be mediocre at many things. You take your first step when you commit to the things YOU want and not the things others want for you or from you.
Say no to the naysayers!
Something funny about the word no is you might have a hard time saying it but other people sure don’t! People will tell you no OFTEN. Don’t let that discourage you. When faced with a no, what do you do? Make other arrangements! Adjust your sails, regroup and reconfigure but don’t give up. Sometimes you’ve got to tell “NO!” Learn to say no to people or habits that aren’t ultimately beneficial to you. Your best friend may want to talk your ear off about her guy problems, but that paper you’ve got wont write itself and your professor may very well say no to that extension you ask for. Finally you’ve got to tell your own negative thoughts no. On your path there will be many bumps, pitfalls and jagged edges that will cause you to question yourself, but you can’t let go of gusto! Keep it moving and don’t allow negativity or naysayers to deter you.
These are all lessons that I have learned the hard way, and I can truly say things got easier when I learned the art of declining. Learning to say no allows you to be on your best game, and be authentic and transparent in your abilities. Overall, it is a liberating experience. Ultimately you must be fair to yourself; most of the time saying yes to everyone means saying no to yourself. When you look back on your life, you want it to be your own.
An Ex Chronic “YES GIRL.”