Roberta Chinsky Matuson
Creating Exceptional Workplaces and Extraordinary Results
Roberta Matuson's Blog

Saying No When You Think You Should Say Yes

Just say no.

I was on vacation last week and reluctantly dragged myself through a museum, because others told me that this was something I couldn’t miss. If you’ve ever attended an event because you were told you must go or eat at a particular restaurant because everyone else was going, then you know exactly how it feels to do something out of obligation.

Of course, no one was holding a gun to my head. I could have chosen to spend my time elsewhere. However, the idea that I had already committed myself to do something got in the way of doing what I knew deep in my heart I should have done.

I should have exited the building, the moment I realized I had made a mistake.

I see the same type of behavior with clients that I work with. They’ve engaged a coach who isn’t helping them move the needle towards the results they hoped to achieve. However, they stick with this person (and some even renew for the second round of coaching) because they are hopeful things will improve, yet there is no evidence this will be the case.

Or they decide to implement a new program, only to discover that the path they’ve chosen is not the right one for their organization. Many will continue down this road because they fear what will happen if they admit they’ve made a mistake. This decision often comes back to haunt them, as it’s difficult to backtrack when you’ve reached the point of no return.

Sometimes leaders decide to do things internally, out of obligation to their team., They believe working on a particular project will be a growth opportunity for their people. While this sounds good in theory, their staff is already stretched too thinly, as there are a host of other priorities requiring their attention. A sense of obligation prevents these leaders from bringing in external resources. A growth opportunity quickly turns into the final straw for many. They soon depart for a less stressful work situation.

Living your life out of obligation is no way to live.

The next time you find yourself doing something because you feel obligated, take a pause. Look at the situation and ask yourself If what you are doing enhances your life and that of the people around you. If the answer is no, then stop what you’re doing and extricate yourself from your current situation. You’ll be glad you did!

© Matuson Consulting, 2019.

Your assignment: What’s one thing that you’re currently doing out of obligation that’s no longer working for you? How will you change this going forward? You can post this in the comment section or if you’d like, send this to me at, and I’ll provide the first five people who do so with advice on how to best handle this situation.

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