In A-100 they tell you that the way to do well in your career – to become a well-respected and sought-after employee and colleague – is to say “yes” a lot. By this they don’t necessarily mean to be a yes-man (although in the FS, as in other organizations, disagreeing with the boss can be a risky move) but to be willing to take on extra projects and to make the effort to look for solutions to problems instead of declaring the situation impossible from the outset. I have found this to be good advice so far, but in the last week I’ve also started to discover the virtues of saying “no”.

Being a consular officer in Guinea requires you to say “no” more often than you can say “yes”, no matter how much wheedling and pleading comes from the other side of the window. That’s just how it works. This is something we practiced in ConGen, but refusing real people real visas is rougher than any simulation. I’m slowly getting used to it though. I am also bringing a new level of “no” to my econ portfolio; time management in a crunch means prioritizing, and prioritizing means being able to say “no” sometimes. Or at the very least “maybe later but most definitely not now”. There’s no point in saying “yes” and not being able to follow through. So for a while at least I am embracing my inner stubborn 2-year-old, and I’m finding it liberating and empowering.