I heard it again today from a client – what a huge difference it made for her to say “Let me get back to you about this” instead of her habitual “Sure, great, tell me more!” It gave her the space to think about whether or not she had the leeway to take on the new thing and whether she wanted to. She didn’t have the leeway and she didn’t want to do it. Now she had time to form a response. Having this sentence in your repertoire is good for stress management. It supports you in having a boundary between you and the incoming request. You don’t always have to respond in the moment!
For many of us, the habit of saying yes is so ingrained and automatic that it takes enormous strength of intention and vigilance to do something different. But oh, what a difference it makes when you do.
Even if you do want to take on the new project (or whatever is on the table), you might need the space to check in with yourself and come back with more of a conversation, not just a yes or no. For example, you might want to say no, you won’t chair the committee, but you’ll co-chair with someone who knows what they’re doing.
You may get some pushback to the change in behavior. My client today said that when she said, “Let me get back to you on that.” The other person said, “Really? I thought you’d jump at this.” So be prepared. No need to get defensive. You might say something like, “I’m not saying I won’t run with this. I just need to think about what else is on my plate. I don’t want to say yes and then not be able to deliver.” Or handle it lightly: “Yes, well, I’m learning that I have limitations.”
People choose to institute new behavior like this when the old way (saying yes immediately) isn’t working for them at the time, for any reason. Maybe they’re completely overcommitted already and can’t possibly take on another thing. Maybe they’re clearing space to finish a dissertation, write an article, or train for an endurance event. They could be grieving, and they just don’t have the energy to take on anything new right now. Maybe they can’t stand working with the person they’d be partnering with and they need some time to figure out a tactful way to tell the truth or a way to clearly say no without telling the underlying reason.
And sometimes it makes sense to use “Let me get back to you” even when it’s not a situation of being asked to take on a task. You may be asked your opinion about something going on in the office or the family and you haven’t really thought about it so you don’t have an opinion to share yet. Or you’ve thought about it plenty and you have a very clear opinion but you don’t want to share it because it’s too raw and negative. Or what you’re being asked about is really, really important to you and you want to craft just the right response.
There are many reasons for invoking the “Let me get back to you” option, and many situations in which it’s completely appropriate. Consider it part of your stress management and boundary-setting skill set.
Please share your comments, questions, or experience with this.