Can’t say No

Inability to say, “no”

Nigel is a senior manager, reporting to a director in a very large service division. As a result, he is faced with responsibility for many areas which routinely place urgent and conflicting demands on him at short notice. His problem stemmed from increasing overload and resulting stress. When he asked me to help him he was clearly under a great deal of pressure, arrived late for the meeting and had to leave early to attend another one. He had committed to me to keep the appointment, and this was the best he could do rather than cancel. Now usually, I would have cancelled it after he was ten minutes late, as this indicates a lack of commitment, but something told me to carry on. During the detailed data gathering it slowly emerged that there were a number of issues which operated in a reinforcing loop and culminated in him being unable to say, “no”. These issues drove him to acquire impossible workloads, which he was unable to delegate. During the following session, for which he arrived and left on time, there was quite a major catharsis resulting from the revelations he had experienced, which is quite usual for these session, but for him it was very rare, he told me. The experience of the revelation of seeing the position from clarity is a very valuable one. In this case, increasingly over future sessions, it enabled Nigel to say, “no” in a way in which both he and the recipient were comfortable, and so relieve the stress and overload, and so enhance his home and work life.