November 2019 President's Corner

November 2019 President's Corner

This article was due yesterday. All last week, I knew that it was coming but I kept putting it off because of other things that came up. Last night, I emailed to say that I would have it done by the end of the day today. All day, I have dreaded working on this article. I wanted to do it and now that I’m sitting down to write, I’m excited about it but so many other things kept popping up that it was hard to find the time for this. All of this boils down to one recurring problem that I’ve had throughout my life: I’m terrible at saying “no.”

From what I’ve heard working with other students around the country, I’m not alone in this. If this sounds familiar to you, I’d suggest that we both try a new “audiology resolution” this year: “just say no” ...strategically. For me, I’ve divided that resolution into three phases:

  1. Triage requests
    1. Pause
      1. Avoid saying yes on the spot. This can lock you in to a commitment, instead get into the habit of telling people that you will get back to them.
      2. Be sure to specify an exact timeframe when you will respond and stick to it! It’s okay to say no (or yes) but you don’t want to forget to respond entirely.
    2. Understand why you’re saying “yes”
      1. You need a reason to say yes. Often, yes feels like the default and it can almost feel bad to say no.
      2. Remember that your time is valuable and so if you’re going to commit to do something it should be valuable to you and not just something you’re doing as an obligation.
    3. Decide if this makes sense for this chapter
      1. I once read that we should think about our life as a book with many chapters. What story do you want to tell over time? Maybe right now you’re an A+ student, later you’ll be a private practice owner, and after that you’ll be a humanitarian audiologist.
      2. All of those are valid, interesting chapters but keep in mind that spending a lot of time during your A+ student chapter doing humanitarian work might not make sense as a part of the “story” and, in fact, might make it hard to tell that story in the first place.
  2. Figure out if it’s a good fit
    1. Estimate the actual time required
      1. Each request will have some kind of time commitment attached. Before you can commit, you should understand what the time commitment will be.
      2. If the person asking you isn’t sure, try to find someone who will be. Remember that people often underestimate how much time something has taken once it’s been completed.
    2. Identify a specific date and time when you could complete this
      1. Once you’ve identified how much time something will take, put it on your calendar BEFORE you say yes.
      2. If you can’t find a specific date and time when you would do this in the next several weeks (or whatever the appropriate time frame may be), then this may not be the right time for you to complete this request.
    3. Set boundaries
      1. Remember that, regardless of where you are in your career, professional and personal boundaries are healthy and important.
      2. Using the above tools, decide whether completing this request will allow you to do everything that you’d like to do during this “chapter”, and still have time for yourself and your relationships.
    4. Ask your committee
      1. Many people far smarter than I am have told me to form a committee of professional and personal advisors. Mentors that I can go to when I need guidance and to check in with to talk about my goals. Remember your “chapters” from above and consider bringing in advisors already in some of those later chapters to help ensure you’re working towards them.
      2. I’d also propose that this group, or a subset of this group, can serve as your “no committee:” a group that you ask before accepting a new volunteer commitment or obligation. This group already knows your goals and hopefully can be more objective about whether or not this new opportunity fits in with those goals.
  3. Respond strategically
    1. Don’t feel the need to explain
      1. If you decide to say no, remember that your response is valid. You do not owe whoever requested this an explanation and they are not entitled to evaluate your priorities for you.
      2. Especially having thoughtfully considered a request, remember to remain firm. You and your time are valuable. That is why you received this request and that also means that you are entitled to decline it without justification.
    2. Be assertive and courteous
      1. If you’ve decided to say no, be definitive in your response. Do not leave room for a requestor to come back and ask again unless you are genuinely open to that. I receive what feels like multiple requests each week that I have no interest in, from people who I encouraged in the past by asking them to “reach out with any future opportunities.”
      2. Whether you’re saying yes or no, it’s important to be respectful to your requestor and their time. Respond promptly and courteously. They had enough respect for you to ask you to do something that is important to them and so be sure to show the same amount of respect in your decision. Additionally, it’s possible that this requestor may have new opportunities down the line that could be interesting to you so it’s seldom a good idea to “burn a bridge” by being rude or dismissive.
    3. Frame your response
      1. If you’ve decided to say yes, be clear about what it is that you understand you’re agreeing to including the time frame and what you’ll be doing. This initial acceptance is often important as projects can evolve after they’ve begun. If you’re comfortable with that, that can be an important part of your acceptance. If you’re uncomfortable with that, it is critical for both you and the requestor to know that.
      2. Try saying something like, “I can do that after I finish this project next week. Will that be prompt enough or would you like to ask someone else?” Then, the requestor can determine if this is in line with their goals for the project and determine their response from there.

Is this something you’ll be trying next year? Do you have another “audiology resolution?” If so, feel free to email me. Who knows, maybe this is the start of a support group!

Always HEAR for you,

Riley DeBacker, SAA President