Category Archives: About me

Learning when to say no

I’ve learned a lot since I started to get involved in extracurricular activities in high school, volunteer and leadership opportunities during university, as well as full-time and part-time jobs that I have taken the last few years, along with the roles that I have taken on here in Mongolia.

Reflecting on these experiences, I think that the most important thing that I have learned is when to say “no” to something or someone. When I was younger, I always felt bad about saying no – I didn’t want to be the person that stood in the way of something, I didn’t want to be perceived as someone who held the team back. At the same time, however, I found it frustrating whenever I willed myself to agree to something I felt was a bad idea or just was not comfortable with.

After some reflection on this matter, I found that there were four situations that I would find myself questioning a decision, or saying no to a decision:

  1. It is wrong. Some people think that it is okay to operate in an ethical grey area, or to break rules that were put in place for a reason. I usually feel uncomfortable with taking decisions that are borderline unethical or skirt/bend the rules, especially when there is a risk for others to be negatively affected. I usually start questioning a proposed action or decision when I start sensing that something is wrong.
  2. Changing expectations. This is tricky, simply because I have found that there are times when I had to change expectations in order to make something work, which is fine. But there are limits to when expectations can be changed. When I am faced with a decision that requires me to change my expectations, I always try to think about both the positive and negative effects of such a decision. If I or someone else is severely negatively affected by a required change of expectations, especially when I feel as though I or someone else has been misled, I’m often inclined to say no.
  3. Time. I have always had an extremely busy schedule. I value my time, and I like to be able to achieve both my goals inside and outside of work. I like to keep work during work hours because I like to focus on work during the business day. Outside of business hours, I like to focus on other things. When I’m asked to do work on something outside of working hours, I always ask myself if it is necessary for me to work on it outside of working hours in order for me to achieve my work goals, or if I can block off time during working hours the next day to focus on it. This includes meetings. I don’t do this because I am selfish with my time, I do it because I want to make sure that I work on things that I am supposed to work on during the allotted time that has been given to me – I don’t want to put things off.
  4. When someone else should be doing the work. While I want to make sure that I contribute to the team, I also want to make sure that others do their share as well. I’m always happy to help my teammates out, but I don’t want to be taken advantage of and be left doing everything.

I used to think that saying no would lead others to see think of me as selfish. But from my point of view, saying no is a way for me to consider other options and ways of doing things with my co-workers.

And from a more personal point of view, it is a way for me to stand up for myself as well. At the end of the day, if you don’t know when and how to say no, people will walk all over you. Who will stand up for you, if not yourself?

Approachability

A few weeks ago, I was in the office delivering training sessions to some students who recently joined AIESEC. During a discussion about first impressions, one of the new members mentioned that I needed to make myself more approachable.

In many ways, I got the same feedback from other people, including the MC team here in Mongolia, as well as the MC team in Singapore.

Two of my MC teammates mentioned that they were scared to apply for the Mongolian MC based solely on the “professional” picture I submitted as part of my application, as well as the content of my application form and YouTube video. Peggy mentioned that she had the impression that I would get into fights with her; but then both of them mentioned how their initial impressions differed from reality.

I have noticed over the last few weeks that members have a tendency not to talk to me when they have questions, even when it comes to exchange. This has led me to think: am I really that unapproachable?

I know that, at times, I give off the impression that I am serious and hardworking – and I hope for a majority of the time, the impression does match reality. But am I perceived to be so serious to the point that people don’t like talking to me?

Perhaps it is because I am unusually quiet when I am around people that I don’t know. It is true that I am seen as one of the quieter members of the MC.

Perhaps it is because I am serious? When people show up late to a meeting, I tell them that they need to show up on time to the next one. I always make it clear that punctuality is important, but perhaps it is being taken the wrong way?

This has been challenging to deal with, as I do want to project myself as hardworking and serious, but at the same time, I want people to feel like they can talk to me at any time. I’m not too sure how to respond or to deal with this issue right now, but at least I know that approachability is something that I need to work on.

Swimming

This post is part of series on my personal history. Enjoy!

When I was younger, I was a competitive swimmer. I wasn’t an olympic athlete, but I swam on a regular basis, everyday for at least two hours after school.

Unlike other sports, swimming isn’t exactly what I would call a “team sport”. Sure, you’ve got a coach and other people in a “team” swimming with you, but unless you’re doing a relay, swimming is very much an individual sport. Even when you’re competing, while you’ll be swimming against other people, at the end of the day, you’re success isn’t based on whether you finish first, it’s based on whether you beat your seed time or not.

Here are two things I learned from swimming:

  • Time Management: Swimming practice can be a bitch, especially when you start school at 7.30 am, get around six hours of sleep after pulling an all-nighter studying. After classes end at 2.45pm, I usually had an hour-long break before practice started – and even then, I still had extracurricular activities to do before. I juggled a full IB course load during my junior and senior years while I was on the varsity team – keeping track of time and not slacking off was important if I was going to get any rest and stay awake for swim practice.
  • Commitment: Being part of the varsity swimming team in high school was cool, but the ultimate goal for everyone in the team was to compete in the annual IASAS swimming competition to represent the school. Everyone had to try out to get into the varsity team at the beginning of the school year; but to get into the IASAS team, you had to perform well throughout the semester in order to be selected by the coach, so essentially being on the varsity team was a semester-long tryout. I didn’t get into IASAS during my first two tries (sophomore and junior year), however it was extremely satisfying when I got in on my senior year. I learned how to stay committed because of swimming.

Swimming during high school was awesome. I wasn’t the best at it, but it was a lot of fun. I liked to do short distance and medium-distance freestyle, so 50m, 100m and 200m.