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Say ‘no’ without hurting your career

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You’re the sort of person who can’t say no.

That can be a virtue at times: Being known as a go-to person definitely gives you an edge. But constantly signing up for committees, voluntary tasks and stretch assignments can leave you with an overwhelming number of projects on your plate.

The key, says Peggy Klaus, is to ask yourself: Why do I have difficulty saying no?

The author of The Hard Truth About Soft Skills further explains: “Is it because you are truly interested in all of the things you’re being asked to do? Or do you feel guilty about saying no? Or do you think it is in some way going to hurt you and your career to say no?”

If it’s about guilt, get over it. “If you really do want to say yes, then prioritize the projects that are already on your plate, figure out how much time you need to complete each project and decide whether you can fit one more,” she says.

“If you fear career damage, then define how you think it will hurt you and whether the fear is legitimate or you are paranoid.”

And when you do need to say no, here’s how:

Express your interest and appreciation that they’ve asked you. That leaves the door open for future opportunities. It also might help to say, “It would not be good for either of us if I took on the project.” To a boss, you might show a list of things you’re already doing and ask for help prioritizing where the new project fits in.

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