No Isn’t a Four-Letter Word. How to Get Comfortable Saying No in 2024.

By neub9
4 Min Read

We all strive to be helpful, and in many cases, compliance professionals have been conditioned to always say yes, if only to avoid creating a negative perception of the department. However, saying yes when you truly cannot or do not want to do something ultimately does more harm than good in the long run.

For years, compliance leaders have been advised to avoid becoming the “Department of No,” and that everyone should find ways to get to “Yes” or “Yes, and.” The stigma associated with saying no seemed to suggest that one isn’t being creative enough or lacks agreeability if they say no.

The reality is that “No” is a valid response at times and could even stand as a full sentence. It doesn’t require further explanation or guilt. In both our careers and personal lives, we all need to use no tactically to establish appropriate boundaries and prioritize our tasks. Each of us has just 24 hours in a day, and we must make choices.

Using no sparingly or with long-winded explanations needlessly complicates what you’re trying to convey, and it makes it difficult to establish clear and effective boundaries. When you say no, you are preserving priorities and making space for the things that you can enthusiastically say yes to. No is the anchor for everything that we want or need to say yes to.

Compliance professionals are often burdened with an excessive amount of responsibility for the outcomes and behaviors of others. This often leads to professionals taking on ever-expanding roles. Culturally, many corporations value the perception of busyness, and employees are rewarded for appearing overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of their responsibilities.

When we do say no, there is often disappointment and pressure to provide a reason for the unfavorable response. However, saying no and not following it up with an explanation can be a perfectly acceptable way to address a request that doesn’t align with your priorities, needs, and goals.

As we enter a new year, consider these three ways to incorporate no more assertively into your vocabulary.

Create a chuck-it list

Instead of a bucket list of things you want to do, create a chuck-it list of all the things you want to get rid of in the new year. Consider eliminating obligations that don’t serve your high-priority goals, such as people-pleasing or committing to things you don’t really want to do.

Find polite and creative ways to say no

If saying no directly seems rude or dismissive, there are many creative ways to decline politely. You can be honest about your priorities and the need to focus your energy, or express that your plate is full. Another tactic is to focus on what you are doing rather than what you are not, making sure it aligns with your priorities.

Practice saying no

If saying no doesn’t come naturally to you, practice in front of a mirror. Start by saying no to things that are not serving you well, such as ditching notifications on your phone that interrupt you during the day. Making space for the things you want in your life by declining or saying no to things that aren’t aligned with your goals will open up room for the things you enthusiastically want to pursue. Give it a try before saying no.

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