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The Secret To Saying No Without Pissing People Off

Self

Time is precious. Never has it been harder to find than in the manic, hyper-connected 21st century world of work. The business day of delivering products, services and company strategy now includes fending off a steady stream of unwanted requests. Not only are they a major distraction, they also devour our time and energy.


The Internet has aggravated this problem with its easy, unfiltered access with few consequences for inconsiderate, invasive behavior. Without us asking for them, in pour pitch letters, requests for introductions, product offers, and solicitations for coffee, glasses of wine and free advice.

We fancy ourselves as “can do" professionals, team players who power through obnoxious situations, preferably politely and respectfully. That's a salutatory goal, but a polite reply doesn't seem to translate into a firm “no" that sends the requester away.

Or can it?

The Manners Movement:

Emily Post, the grand dame of social etiquette, came out of Victorian times with a set of rules that everyone adopted to “fit into" society. She was not just about which fork to use, when to write a thank you note and who gets introduced first. Her rules provided guidance on how to navigate interpersonal situations with grace and respect.

While her classic tome is still in print, it no longer enjoys its wide acclaim. In the 21st century, the individual reigns supreme. Self-interested behavior is not only acceptable but fair game. Old fashion codes of conduct have been abandoned with little to replace them. The egregious behavior of our national politicians reflects this trend.

To protect the quality of our work day, we must manage the self-centered, unaware oafs inside and outside of the office whose demand for our time makes life miserable.

Ten Types and Tips for Saying “No":

Below are Ten Types and Tips for saying “no" effectively to colleagues, managers and vendors. Given different personalities, one size does not fit all. Responses must be tailored to the person and circumstances. In all these situations, a gracious, respectful response will increase the likelihood of protecting you from criticism and further unwanted requests.

In other words, think of good manners as a strategy, rather than a capitulation.

1. The Natterer: They talk compulsively, usually about some mindless dilemma of their own making. They are not interested in solving their problems, but rather in consuming your attention. Validate their concern, saying with a sympathetic smile, “It sounds like you have a real problem there. Good luck with that." Then return to your work. If they persist in pestering you, try, “Sorry, but I need to get this done." If that fails, stand up, and say, “Excuse me, I have to go." Smile, say no more, and leave.

2. The Office Operator: This office classic always has an agenda, and wants you to serve it. They come at you with an oily, “Hey! How are you?" They add an empty social comment, then ask with their intent. “I hear you are buddies with [someone important to their cause]. Do you think you could ask her to. . .?" This operator has built no political capital with you. Your response: “I'd like to help, but I have no dog in this hunt, and she knows it. You might try [name]."

3. The Passive-Aggressive: They respond to your denial of their request with a sarcastic, “Oh, well, I guess you are super busy." Your best response is a level, “'Yes, I am." Resist biting on further remarks, it really won't do you any good.

4. The Digital Natterer: These people cannot end an online conversation, filling the air with rejoinders. “Yes, but can you believe..." It's up to you to close the border. “Hey, gotta go, or the bailiff will be at the door." Then stop answering. If it's important, they will try another channel. You can decide whether it's worth it to you.

5. The User: You may or may not know these people from outside your company. If online, they might be a robot. Either way, it's important to draw a boundary. “I'd liked to see you, but have no bandwidth. When I do, I'll let you know." If they come back, retain control of the conversation by repeating your position. Then end the exchange. If it is a robot, create an electronic filter that says, “delete."

6. The Personalizer: No matter what you say, they hear any comment as a reflection on their self-worth. “No" is a rejection on their personhood. Preface any “no" by validating their worthiness. “I really appreciate you asking. Sounds like a great project. Unfortunately, I can't help with this one because of a screaming deadline on [project name]."

7. The Bully: These aggressive personalities succeed through intimidation. “No" can feel dangerous. After a healthy pause to break the intensity, you say, calmly, without a hint of hostility, “Sorry, good idea, but I can't help you with that." They don't expect that type of response and hate conflict. This works best when you add an objective business reason that does not reflect on them personally.

8. The Campus Pet: These people win a “yes" because they have gained support from the “right" people for their commitment to them and can-do attitude. They are also politically toxic. “No" to them must include a good business reason that keeps them looking good. “I don't have the bandwidth right now, but have you considered talking with [name]? She would be perfect for that."

9. The Debater: Unlike the bully who hits and runs, the debaters need to prevail. There is no winning except on their terms. Your best move is to not engage. If they start up, raise your hand and say, “Sorry, I can't get into this right now." Then stop talking.

10. The Needy Person: A variation on The Natterer, their requests are probably gratuitous. What they need is validation – something a workplace is not geared to provide. When the whining begins, gently say you can't help them, and wish them good luck.

Culture

A Modern Day Witch Hunt: How Caster Semenya's Gender Became A Hot Topic In The Media

Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.


Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.

That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.

Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.

Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.

Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.

With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.

The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.

Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.

As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.

Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.