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Saying no to a senior leader at work is almost unthinkable, even laughable, for many people. However, when saying yes is going to compromise your ability to make the highest level of contribution to your work, it is also your obligation. In this case it is not only reasonable to say no, it is essential. One effective way to do that is to remind your superiors what you would be neglecting if you said yes and force them to grapple with the trade-off.
This is a particularly good way to navigate a request you would like to support somewhat but cannot throw your full weight behind. I particularly like this construct because it also expresses a respect for the other person's ability to choose, as well as your own. It reminds both parties of the choices they have.
"Saying no is its own leadership capability. It is not just a peripheral skill. As with any ability, we start with limited experience."
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Once you know where you can safely say no, try cutting back on saying yes.
Try to document your energy level and your calendar. How much did you have to do? Did saying yes to too many things mean your days were too busy?
Next time someone makes a request, assess your time and energy before taking on more tasks.
The main reason why we are having a hard time declining other people's requests is that we are afraid to be rejected. We are afraid that people might think negatively.