by Khafayah Abdulsalam
It’s a simple known fact that if we are overwhelmed with too many commitments we will never be productive. Life management will be very poor, spreading you in too many directions. The dunya will begin to control us and we will lose track of our time, value and space. When we were young, one of the first word we learnt to say was “No”.
However as we grow older we begin to lose our self-confidence/esteem and begin to say “Yes” instead to all requests. We look like the nice person and person-pleaser. In the meantime our important goals and commitments are put on the back burner. We have lost the concept and are generally scared to say no to others out of fear of rejection. This impacts our ability to make decisions, as we feel it may jeopardise relationships. We should never lose fact or sight of our purpose in this world. It all begins with managing ourselves and self accountability. As Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) reminds us: “If you have your own schedule and set of priorities you are well in control, and know what other commitments you will be able to accommodate.”
So, the first person you need to say ‘no’ to is yourself. Say no to kids, spouses, family and work colleagues in a nice firm gentle way. After all, saying no is really about how much you value your time and space. As Allah tells us in Surah Al-Asr, a productive Muslim has to use their time wisely.
For example: what happens when you take a kid to a shopping centre? We know they will always find something they would like to have. Is it wise to continuously say yes and give in to every request? Okay – you may think it might avoid the tantrums and the screaming in the short run. However doing so over a long period of time would result in a child who is spoilt and undisciplined.
Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said something beautiful, what translates as: “I cannot be deceived, even by my own self, hence why the first being you say no to is yourself.” Ask yourself: do you find it difficult to say no since you have built up a good relationship with someone? At work do you stay behind working long hours to cover work that you were unable to complete, because you were busy attending to everyone else’s requests? If that is the case, then your family and friends suffer as a direct consequence of your lack of ability to say no.
Saying no is your prerogative to staying productive and minimising stress and frustration. I know you like to appear indispensable and helpful to others though let’s make that commitment today to start saying ‘no’ to the unimportant things in life and ‘yes’ to things that are most important to us.
Here are six simple practical solutions on how to say “No”:
1. Say No to Yourself
The first person you say no to is yourself. The most difficult person you will have to deal with is you. It’s time to say “No” to you in order to realise that failure to accept another persons’ request in order to achieve your primary goals and fulfil your duties is at times necessary.
2. Value your Time
Know your commitments and how valuable/precious time is. When someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply can or cannot do it. After evaluating your current workload and commitments and decide that you cannot, gently tell them that you have a full plate and aren’t able to help right now. You need to be polite but firm about guarding your time.
3. Plan Ahead
Planning brings order to your life in two ways: first, it tells you how to get from where you are to where you want to be; secondly, it identifies the required tasks and resources to get you there. Planning is the key to managing events in your life.
4. Prioritise Commitments
Consider your goals and schedules before agreeing to take on additional work. Prioritising commitments will ensure that you spend your time and energy on those that are truly important to you. Even if you do have some extra time (which is rare), is this new commitment really worth your time? Personally for myself I know that more commitments means less time with my kids, who are more important to me.
5. Say “No” to Your Boss
Yes – sometimes even the highest in authority have to be told No! At times we feel that we have to say yes to our boss in order to protect our professional repute. However your boss is also human, so let him/her know that by taking on extra commitments your productivity is affected and jeopardizing your existing committments. If your boss insists to re-prioritize the projects or tasks, kindly explain that there’s only so much you can take on.
6. Get Back to Focus on Yourself
When you’re asked to do something for someone else, instead of providing an answer on the spot it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them than to impulsively make a promise and fail to deliver. This will allow you time for consideration and checking your commitments and priorities.
Also, this isn’t an excuse to say ‘No’ to those we are obligated to serve such as our parents in their time of need. If you are going to say no to your family, friends and colleagues always give them a reason why you have to refuse (depending on the situation). It helps others respect your decision and understand where you are coming from. This is crucial to maintaining and having a strong relationship.
”No” is the New ‘Yes’
People will appreciate you much more once you can give them your undivided attention if you said “No” to other requests. Your home life will be better and inshaAllah your career will soar! You can focus on doing things you love, instead of always focusing on obligations. If you have never said no, here is a quick exercise I use with my clients. Start off by practicing saying no quietly, and then gradually increase the intensity till you are saying no aloud. Introduce some are gestures to push away what is no longer acceptable to you. Then begin to decrease the intensity of the volume till it’s almost a whisper. You should now be able to say “No” authoritatively, confidently and quietly.