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  • Gary Borland

#31 Getting Clear



Have you ever said the words – ‘What have I just signed up for’?


We’re building from previous blogs on the challenge of saying NO when responding to something that’s asked of us. It may be that we weren’t actually asked, and someone was assuming that we had already agreed or were committed. Whatever the circumstances, we may have been committed to something by someone else. Or we are asked and believe for whatever reason that we cannot say No. So, how did we get there and why?


Let’s look first at commitment. What does it actually mean to commit to something? One way of considering a commitment is ‘willingly making a promise or decision to give your energy, time and resources to something that you believe in’. A key part of this is ‘willingly’. When we do something out of obligation, discomfort, pressure, anxiety, fear, desire to be liked etc. then we are likely to have compliance, not commitment. And where we have compliance against our will, it’s unlikely that we will show up powerfully. There are of course circumstances where compliance is appropriate – complying with safety instructions, the law, and so on, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.


Similarly, there may be work situations in which you are required to do things you don’t necessarily want to do but need to do as part of your role. Or you’re given instructions by your boss or line manager that you might not agree with. If you are someone who has the privilege of leading others, consider how often you are ‘telling’ rather making a request of someone. And notice how easy it can be to direct rather than enrol people and justify and explain it to your own satisfaction. There may be circumstances where you need to direct or tell, but if that’s the norm for you, it might be time to have a look in the mirror!

Let’s look then at the interchange when a request is made by you or someone else. Really tuning in to what’s being said is likely to reveal some interesting things. Was it clear who the request was being made of? Was the request clear and specific? Was it timebound? Was it a request from a 3rd party? If so, how confident are we about the ‘Who/What/When’? If any of these are missing or unclear, any commitment is likely to be fairly meaningless. People walk away with their own interpretation of what was asked and said, then wonder why things don’t turn out as expected! In our experience, it is very common for at least one of these vital elements to be missing. Examine that for yourself by listening to your own and other’s requests.


Having got clear about what we are or aren’t committing to (or asking others to commit to) we’ll explore the range of options to respond to requests in the next blog. We’ll also touch on some reasons why we might find it very difficult to say anything other than a half-hearted Yes.

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