11 ways to say no (with thanks, guts and grace)

Anger has a taste.

It’s bitter, chalky and anything eaten after it just tastes bad.

It lingers in your mouth long after you didn’t say no, but wanted to.

It’s a drop of poison that no vitamin, exercise regime or organic diet can do anything about. Learning how to say no is the only remedy.

Fact: Learning how to say no with guts and grace is a delicious skill.

Learning it could save your life.

Learning to say no doesn’t mean that life will be devoid of love, acceptance, security and companionship. BUT we’ve had a steady diet of such thoughts that seduced us into believing so. A closer examination reveals the true nutritional content of those beliefs.

When we refuse to say no, it is us that keeps life stagnant and flat. In reality, learning to say no means willing to risk being fully alive – to actually have the connection and intimacy that we crave in the ways destined for us. It means that we are nourished and in return can nourish.

We are socialized to be nice, learn to say yes to please others, avoid saying no to please others, believing adamantly that we control how others feel. We hurt ourselves in the ways that we fear being hurt by others.

Ironic isn’t it?

When you can’t say no, but want to, it is you that abandons yourself, it is you that denies yourself acceptance, it is you that refuses to show love, loyalty and honour to yourself.

It wouldn’t hurt a bit if everyone understood a little Jung, to see that we are all just shadows and mirrors for one another.

Continue reading

Me Student! You Professor!

I don’t much like talking to strangers.

Some people are better at it than others, but it’s something I’ve never really been good at or wanted to do much of. Come to think of it, I’m not even that great at talking to the people I know – such is the fate of us introverted internal processors. I have great conversations in my head with myself, but when it comes to vocalizing my brilliant, eloquent thoughts to other people, I often end up garbling the words into something near unintelligible.

I’ll use just about any excuse to get a Far Side cartoon in here and there. I can relate to Tarzan, though – he had such great intentions, but flustered in the pivotal moment. I can also relate to the many students I talk to who are intimidated – to say the least – at the prospect of talking to their professors. Heck, I was one of those students at one point in time. Continue reading

Building Awareness of Self-Awareness

Full Sword in scabbard

Image via Wikipedia

I spoke in my last post about comfort zones, strengths, and growth from within areas that we are already relatively comfortable.  It was a pretty straightforward account of how knowing what are strengths are can help us to build on and expand those strengths into new areas.  The problem, of course, is that this viewpoint presupposes that you actually do know what your strengths are.


There are a few issues worth considering here.  I suppose the first would be a consideration of what a strength actually is.  Some people would distinguish between a strength and a personality characteristic, for example.  In such a scenario, the former may be something more of a skill that can in some quasi-quantifiable way be improved over time (i.e. writing, planning, organizing), while the latter might be more of a stable, enduring quality or trait that is in some sense automatic (i.e. charisma, quick thinking, adaptability). Continue reading

What Makes a Psychologically Healthy Workplace?

The headlines are staggering:

workplace bully

via blog.hrinmotion.com

Stress linked to bulk of lost work days in Canada

Mental health leaves cost Canadian economy $51 billion: Study

Workplace bullying runs rampant

Mental health of workers should be a priority

Employee stress level increasing: Survey

And, it only took me about 5 minutes to find the above news items.

*     *     *

Anyone who’s ever had to deal with a mental health issue, be it large or small, acute or chronic, a mild annoyance or a crippling debilitation, knows that there is a huge difference between how physical health issues and mental health issues are perceived and treated by others, including our so-called “universal” health care system here in Canada.

Universal health care? I’m afraid we still have a long way to go. The unfortunate truth is that the accessibility of mental health care has been, and continues to be, woefully non-universal. Why is this, when studies such as those that appear in the news headlines above continue to show the devastating impact that mental health issues are having on the economy? Never mind the impacts on quality of life for those who are suffering.

The optimist in me says that one day, hopefully in my lifetime, with science continuing to show the links between mental and physical health, we’ll wake up as a society and stop thinking of mental health issues as second-class concerns, and our health care system will follow suit.

In the meantime, much of the work that can be done to address mental illness and its impacts is preventative. Intuitively, one of the best places to prevent mental illnesses from developing (leaving aside early childhood for now) is the place that we will all spend the largest chunk of our time: the workplace.

Workplace environments can be staggeringly painful, wonderfully inspiring and comforting, and anything and everything in between. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience probably more positive than negative workplace environments in my employment history, which is something that I’ve discussed in the past. However, I have also had the displeasure of working in environments that made me dread going to work every day.

The verbally abusive boss and coworkers. The bullying. The feeling that you’re stagnating, not growing in any way. The long hours. The feeling of being alone, isolated, with no one you can talk to about your concerns. Myriad other concerns. Simply put, it sucks. And no wonder people crack under the pressure. Some mental health issues, like certain kinds of depression, can be thought of as your body’s signal that something in your life is not working for you the way it should be. That something is missing. It’s your body’s “check engine” light. And just like a car, it’s far easier (and far less expensive) to be doing regular maintenance than to be stalled in an intersection with no other option than to call the towing company.

Fortunately, there are good people out there doing research into just what makes a workplace psychologically healthy. The American Psychological Association, for one, has a Psychologically Healthy Workplace program that has set out a few guidelines for employers on what they can do to help. The diagram below describes the model in nice visual detail.

psychologically healthy workplace

via phwa.org

The examples below are taken directly from the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program’s website:

Employee Involvement
• Self-managed work teams
• Employee committees or task forces
• Continuous improvement teams
• Participative decision making
• Employee suggestion forums, such as a suggestion box and monthly meetings

Work-Life Balance
• Flexible work arrangements, such as flextime and telecommuting
• Assistance with childcare
• Eldercare benefits
• Resources to help employees manage personal financial issues
• Availability of benefits for family members and domestic partners
• Flexible leave options beyond those required by the Family and Medical Leave Act

Employee Growth and Development
• Continuing education courses
• Tuition reimbursement
• Career development or counseling services
• Skills training provided in-house or through outside training centers
• Opportunities for promotion and internal career advancement
• Coaching, mentoring, and leadership development programs

Health and Safety
• Training and safeguards that address workplace safety and security issues
• Efforts to help employees develop a healthy lifestyle, such as stress management, weight loss and smoking cessation programs
• Adequate health insurance, including mental health coverage
• Health screenings
• Access to health/fitness/recreation facilities
Resources to help employees address life problems, for example, grief counseling, alcohol abuse programs, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and referrals for mental health services

Employee Recognition
• Fair monetary compensation
• Competitive benefits packages
• Acknowledgement of contributions and milestones
• Performance-based bonuses and pay increases
• Employee awards
• Recognition ceremonies

Would you add anything to the above categories?  I can safely say that my current work environment does pretty well in most of the above areas. Can you say the same? How will you know when you are in a psychologically unhealthy workplace, and what will you do to get out of it?

Cross posted at Career Services Informer.