*Master the art of the nice No
There are ways and ways of saying no. You don’t have to be aggressive or rude to refuse to do something that’s not convenient, or that you don’t want to do. The easiest way to change your mindset about saying no is to be straightforward, polite and calm. You don’t need to give an excuse or explanation, just a matter of fact refusal.
If you find it difficult to say no, write yourself an all-purpose script that goes something like “No, doing X isn’t possible today/this week/that night.” That’s all. Tailor it to what feels right for you but keep it short, sweet and polite.
The first step to stop the apology reflex is to quarantine the word sorry to use only when it’s appropriate. Pushovers use ‘sorry’ as a defensive weapon essentially saying don’t hit me for not doing what you want. Sorry gives away your power and puts you at fault in what should be a no-fault situation.
Apologizing is asking the other person to keep pushing to see if you’ll cave in, as it signals powerlessness. Keep your refusal straightforward, polite and respectful. And don’t say sorry!
*Offer a compromise
There’s a balance between being a pushover and being unreasonable. Sometimes every team member has to go outside their job description to get the work done. If you’re asked to work a weekend or late, and you really can’t or don’t want to, offer an alternative. Perhaps you could offer to come in early or take work home or reprioritize your work so you can help straight away.