When Meghan Trainor, the ‘Queen of Bops’ released her song “No” back in 2016, it very quickly became my jam – not just because of how catchy it is, but because I often find myself struggling to say that powerful little word.
There was something incredibly freeing about walking around in public with my earphones in, blasting that song, and mentally picturing how great it would feel if I could just translate this liberating feeling into my everyday life, both personally and professionally.
On the professional front, this is particularly important for me since I work at a PR agency and deal with last-minute requests and urgent deadlines on a regular basis. It’s also key when it comes to offering clients counsel and pushing back when you know that something they’re set on might not work the way they think it will.
So to my fellow PR practitioners: if you’re a fellow people pleaser who struggles to say the word “no,” then here are some quick tips that I’ve learnt from mentors and my own experiences along the way.
Practise the pause
Oftentimes, the biggest struggle for people like us is the fact that we tend to panic and say YES to every single request even before we’ve had time to think it through and decide if it’s actually feasible. But once we’ve finally slowed down, thought it through, and realised it can’t actually be done, it’s nearly impossible for us to backtrack because we’ve already committed.
One of the best ways to overcome this is to practise The Pause – literally pausing before responding to someone. It sounds pretty simple, but is much harder to put into practice. The next time you’re in a meeting and someone asks if you can do something, instead of immediately saying yes, PAUSE first. Think about what the task will entail, timelines and if it makes sense, and then respond accordingly. And it’s completely okay to say that you need more time to think it through or to discuss it with the rest of your team, and you’ll get back to them soon.
Saying no right off the bat might be hard – so maybe just start with not saying yes.
STOP Saying Sorry
I mean it… STOP.
I’m not saying don’t take accountability for your actions when you actually mess up. But you’ve got to stop saying sorry for every little thing when there’s nothing for you to be sorry about. I’ve been there – when you’re trying to push back on something and you want to be firm or when you’re following up with something for the fourth time and trying to be nice about it, you sprinkle in your “sorry, but…” before every sentence.
If no one has told you before, then this is your sign to cut it out of your vocabulary when it’s unnecessary. All this does is make you seem like you aren’t confident in your actions and undermines all the good work that you do.
Check your motivations
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received is to always check my motivations for doing something. It’s easy to say yes to things so you seem like an easy and accommodating person to work with or because you want people to like you.
While it’s nice to be liked, it’s not completely beneficial for you as a PR professional – you actually don’t want a reputation as a ‘yes’ person. Our jobs require us to play devil’s advocate sometimes, to counsel our clients on the strategies we know from experience will work and provide results that support their goals, and to think of all the possible outcomes for their betterment. So the next time you feel compelled to say yes solely because you want people to like you, check your motivations and think about whether this is helping you give your clients, or even your team, your best.
Learning how to change a lifetime of habits isn’t easy. It’s going to be quite a bit of hard work, and in truth, it’s a constant effort. But if you’re self-aware enough to know you need to change and are taking the little steps to get there, you’re on the right track!
PR agency professionals, does this resonate with you? Tell us more at [email protected]