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Does setting a boundary at the office make you a bully?

Saying "NO" is okay. It's all in how you say it.

We’re all familiar with the concept of an office bully and in fact, they were the ones most often sent to a class I used to teach called “How to Overcome Negativity at the Workplace”. Yes indeedee, on any given day it would be upbeat positive me, and a room full of cranky, negative, down in the mouth prisoners in class, all sent to me to be fixed in a 6 hour class! You’ve got the visual…

But I suspect, you may also have the concern that has crossed all of our minds once or twice and that is:

“Will People Think I’m Being Mean or Bullying Them if I Say No to Their Request or Demand? ”

Quite simply, the answer is no, but the confusion on this concept is rampant. Saying “no” is completely okay and necessary behavior if you are going to set healthy boundaries for yourself. Saying “No way you schmuck. Buzz off!” is a completely different animal. But how do you set a boundary that protects you from behavior you aren’t willing to tolerate, either by saying no or some other method, without sounding like a bully or losing all your friends at the office. There’s a few methods and each of these are tested, tried,and pretty simple.

Say “NO” nicely or not at all

Odd as this sounds, you can set a boundary for yourself and say no, without saying no at all. It sounds like “I’d like to participate in that project and will need to take a rain check for this time around. Can you let me know when there will be another opportunity?” Or you might say “That sounds great and I would want to give a project like this the attention it deserves. I won’t have the available time in my schedule until April. Will that work or should I pass completely for now?” Always put the option you’d prefer them to choose last in your offering and remember both options are an example of you being polite, honest and assertive, but you never said no, outright. This method works very well for Relaters and Entertainers who prefer to regard the feelings of others before their own schedule.

Ask Questions

Now, when I pose this question, you might think I’m being sarcastic, but I’m serious. It’s all in the tone of voice. Imagine your boss gives you a project and it is proverbial “Hot Potato!” meaning it needs to be done NOW, right along with the two other NOW projects you’ve just been given. Your question to your boss could easily be “Thank you for entrusting me with these projects. I now have three urgent projects and I want to make sure I understand the priority of each. Do you want me to complete this one you just gave me, first or after the other two already assigned?” That question doesn’t make you the office bully at all. It shows that you are looking out for the well being of your boss who may not have realized your work load. It also shows that you are conscientious about the kind of result you want to provide for each. Other questions can include those we mentioned in the “saying no” method or even “How well would it work for me to play that role if I only have 1 hour a week to devote to my volunteer activities?”  The person requesting your assistance will either realize you are too busy or modify the role to fit your needs. Voila! Problem solved.

Just Be Honest

At the end of the day, the only one who guards your schedule and keeps up with your needs and your goals, and notices how much time you either take away from what you want to accomplish in life or devote to those needs… is YOU. If you are unable to meet an extra request of your time or energy and it isn’t a part of your role, please do not say, that’s not my job, but instead be honest. People cannot fix what they don’t know is broken and if you say “yes” to everything and resent it later, it’s really your own fault and not the person who asked for your help. There is no harm and no foul and no sense that you are a bully if you merely share honestly that you “would love to and can’t” or you “wish you could help another time” or you “have another another commitment that requires your focus” or any number of true statements. Most of the time, we can’t remember the story we made up to get out of something and it can bite you back, so honesty is often your best policy.

How much time will you devote to what you really want out of life this coming year? Will your days be filled with the efforts spent on those things you said yes to, out of habit, or will you take control of your own activities and set the boundaries that you need to reserve time to work on what you want. Maybe you WANT to be involved in 3 different volunteer groups and a full time job and a family. If that’s the case, then enjoy it to the fullest and live it up. Either way, you’re in the driver’s seat. Better to be driving your own schedule than to be sitting on the side of the road, wondering what hit ya.

Happy new year and of course, stay contagious!

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