In this post I talk about how you can manage professional relationships with confidence and ease. The focus in on how you can achieve your goals, saying no and maintain a good relationship, and avoid wasting time in doing what doesn’t serve you.
Today I am going to talk about how you can get clear on what you want professionally and keep focused on it while moving forward. So that you can accomplish more, feel accomplished (it’s not the same) and grow professional relationships that really serve you. Professional relationships don’t come with a user guide and they can be challenging. Especially, I am thinking about those moments when you are asked or offered something and you know it’s not exactly what you want. But you’re afraid of saying no and having other people not liking it – or not liking you. So you may say yes, and get off track or even finding yourself wasting time in something that is not interesting for you.
If you are a woman in corporate or in the academic environment, it could be when your colleagues ask you for help on some of their projects or when your boss ask you to take on (or do more of) something you don’t really want to do. If you are a woman entrepreneur, it’s when you get a request from a potential client or supplier that you want to turn down. And you are not sure about how you can say no without ruining the relationship.
In this article, I am not talking about the need of being liked by others and how you could stop being a people pleaser starting to like yourself – so that your relationship would become a lot easier to manage (if you want to read about that, check out this article). But I am talking about how you can practically tackle the problem and start moving forward today.
STEP 1: GET CLEAR ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT
If you aren’t clear about what you want to achieve professionally, you’re not going to get it, right? So, the first step is to get clarity around your professional goals. Take your notebook and start answering these questions:
- What do you really want to achieve in your professional life?
- Is where you are now, where you want to be?
- If not, where would you like to be instead?
- Where would you like to be in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years?
- Are you on the right track or is there something missing? Some competence you need to acquire? Some confidence you need to work on?
- What are you really good at?
- What do you enjoy doing?
- Where can you bring the most of value?
STEP 2: SET YOUR BOUNDARIES
Once this is clear, it’s really important to set your boundaries. And, especially if you’re starting a new job or business soon, it’s good to start with your boundaries very clear in your mind.
- What do you want to be doing, most of the time?
- Is there any obstacle to it? Anything that need to be solved, delegated, re-organized?
- Who are the people you’ll relate to in your career or business and what kind of relationships do you want to establish with them?
- What is desirable? What is acceptable? What is tolerable?
- What is intolerable?
- How are you going to make sure that you’re going to spend most of your time doing what matters most to you, what you really enjoy doing?
- How are you going to make sure you preserve a good work-life balance?
Setting the goals and the limits before finding yourself in some challenging situations will help you to recognise the signs and direct the situation where you want it to be (if you want to read more about setting healthy boundaries for yourself, check out this article).
STEP 3: MORE OF WHAT YOU WANT, LESS OF WHAT YOU DON’T
Once you are clear on the first two steps, it’s time to act and make things happen + avoid letting things happen to you. And this is all in the mindset. What’s possible, what’s impossible, what you (think you) need to cope with, how others treat you, every single piece of this depends on what kind of mindset you have. If your mindset is set on never earning a good salary, this is what you’ll experience. If your mindset is set on having to work on tasks you hate and finish all the work that get thrown at you, this is what you’ll get. If your mindset is set on having to struggle and work hard, accepting any client for low rates or any work done by a supplier, this is what you’ll get. Pay attention to what you focus on, because this is how you set your brain to produce that reality around you.
When you set your boundaries, you make decisions about what you want and what you don’t want. When we talk about GETTING MORE OF WHAT YOU WANT, we are talking about learning to ASK FOR IT – and to manage a successful negotiation. When we talk about GETTING LESS OF WHAT YOU DON’T WANT, we are talking about learning to SAY NO. What do they have in common? The underlying concept here is WHAT YOU BELIEVE YOU DESERVE.
Are you curious about discovering it? Then answer these questions:
- What do you believe you deserve?
- What do you believe you don’t deserve?
- Is there something preventing you from asking for what you want?
- Is there something preventing you from saying no to what you don’t want?
- Is there any situation you feel stuck in?
- Any professional situation that keeps repeating itself?
Once you are clear about this, you’ll know where the problem comes from. Because if you believe something about that, you’re going to find yourself in the same situation or relationship again and again – at least until you decide to do something about it.
STEP 4: ASKING OR REFUSING WHILE PRESERVING THE RELATIONSHIP
This is a big concern for women. As little girls, we learnt to be nice and we also learnt that being nice is making compromises (not saying no) and avoid asking “too much” (not asking for what we want). Are you surprised if today it is so difficult for you to ask for what you want and say no? Are you surprised if you care a lot about pleasing other people and keeping everyone happy? I am not. Do you know how deeply this can affect your professional and personal life? Right, that deeply.
So how can you make sure you can get what you want without being afraid of losing the relationships?
First of all, evaluating the value of that specific relationship. Second, setting yourself free. You can decide to set yourself free when you decide to quit that role you learnt. You can stop attaching your worth to how many people like you or to your performances. And you can do it gracefully, without becoming a person that doesn’t care. I am going to guide you there.
Think about the specific relationship we are talking about:
- Is this relationship worth keeping it?
- Are you in a situation in which you need to keep that relationship?
- What’s the advantage of keeping it?
- What’s the price of keeping it?
- Is there the possibility of challenging the boundaries and setting new standard in that relationship?
- Are you ok to accept that you can control only 50% of that relationship and losing it if it’s based on something you don’t want anymore?
Professionally speaking, a lot of relationships are worth keeping – even if only at a professional level – because you never know who you can meet again tomorrow. So If this is the case, let’s make sure to act in a way that doesn’t threaten the relationship. You’re going to do that, removing yourself from the equation. That means, stop to take things personally and helping the other person to stop that too.
Remember, you know what you want and you know what you don’t want, right? So focus on the relationship and make sure the other person know about your desire of actually working with them at other conditions, or in a different moment, or you name it. It could be something like that:
“I’d really like to work with you. In this moment (or at this rate, etc) I can’t. But in the future (or, if we find a solution on X), I’d be more than happy to do Y with you.”
This way, you take control over your goals, you deal with challenges with confidence and make sure to keep good professional relationships that can help you achieve what you want. With grace.
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