How to Say No

There’s so much out there in life to do.  Some things others ask us to do.  Some things we decide we need to do.  Some things we actually want to do.  If we are going to have time to do what we want to do, we need to know how to say no – both to others and to ourselves.

How to say no to others

I have come to realize that I am the indispensable person only until I say no

Do you have a problem saying no when someone asks you to do something?  I do too.  What has helped me most is being prepared ahead of time plus using some strategies in the moment when someone is asking me to do something.

Be prepared

Teens are routinely asked to “Just Say No” to drugs or to make a Purity Pledge to wait for intimacy until marriage.  Why?  Because making the decision ahead of time makes it easier to say no in the moment.

The most important factor in being able to say no to others is to be prepared ahead of time. How can you prepare?

Know thyself

If you have a habit of saying yes too often, admit that to yourself.  Admit that you do it and list all the negative effects it has on your life, the life of those around you and potentially on the results of what you’ve committed to do.  

Common effects of overcommitting are:

  1. Lack of time for important things like eating right, sleep and family relationships
  2. Stress that affects eating, sleep, and family relationships
  3. Inability to complete whatever you’ve committed to because you have too many things on your plate
  4. Resentment

You may even want to detail out exactly what happened the last time you said yes when you should have said no.

Be confident of your priorities

When someone asks you to take on something new, it’s easy to get caught up in why they need it done.  It’s easy to allow their priorities to become your priorities.  The solution is to actually know what your priorities are.  Take some time to think and then write them down somewhere where you will be reminded of them often.

Define your boundaries

Defining your boundaries is making decisions ahead of time.  Decide what types of things you will or will not do.  I have a friend who decided many years ago that she would not go to direct sales parties.  She knew that although they can be fun, it wasn’t worth the time and money to her.  So when she is invited to one, she doesn’t have to think about whether she needs anything, or whether she wants to support her friend, she just says ‘no, thank you’.

Put a little thought into the types of things that have resulted in overcommitment in the past.  Are there any rules you can come up with for yourself?  Even if you’ve done something in the past, you can still come up with a rule that you won’t in the future – it’s your life! If someone gets bent out of shape, that’s their choice.  You don’t create other people’s feelings.

Realize the overcommitting is not ‘nice’

One of the biggest reasons people overcommit is that they don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.  They want to help whoever is asking.

If you say yes, and then either can’t deliver or end up so stressed and burnt out that you are not so nice to other more important people in your life, you are NOT BEING NICE!  Part of saying no to some things is that you are able to say yes to the more important people in your life (including yourself).

In the moment

So you’ve prepared yourself, you know your priorities and now you are faced with someone asking you to do something.  What do you do?

Be courteous

Thank the person for thinking of you.  Ask them a little about what they are asking.  Maybe they are passionate about their cause and would love to tell you all about it.  If you end up saying no, they will have the warm feeling that you actually listened to the request and took them seriously.

Take time

You know you’ve said yes in the past and regretted it.  So give yourself some time to make the right decision.  Now that you know what the ask truly is, let them know that you need to think about it.  Explain that you have to make sure you can give it the time it deserves (overcommitting is not nice!).  Tell them when and how you will let them know.  You can be control of when you are going to make decisions about your life!

Be honest and firm

When you do get back to them be honest.  If you are saying yes, make it clear exactly how much you can devote to their request.  If you are saying no, don’t make up excuses or lies about why you can’t.  You already expressed interest in them and their idea because you asked about the details.  A simple “I’m sorry I can’t help, but I wish you the very best” is enough.  Saying no is not being mean.  As children we are trained not to be a bratty child who rudely says ‘NO’ when asked to share.  This is NOT the same no.  Remember – overcommitting is not nice!

Offer an alternative IF appropriate

If you are truly interested in helping in some way (truly interested!) but cannot commit to whatever is being asked, let them know that you are interested.  Let them know exactly what you could do.  If they don’t accept that offer, that’s fine!  You don’t then have to do what they originally asked!

How to say no to yourself

Success is not defined only by millions of dollars.

Sometimes we end up overcommitted and stressed because we’ve taken on too many things all by ourselves.  No one has asked us to do these things, but we’ve decided we have to do them all.  I do this ALL THE TIME!  It is just as important to be able to say no to ourselves.  We can do this in the same way that we say no to others.

Be prepared

Know your priorities

Sit down and write down what you want.  Define some goals. Think about the things that will distract you from those goals.  Accept that those other distractions are not your priorities.

Have a plan

Make a plan to reach your goals.  Make sure that plan includes all the other things that you need to get done in life.  Have everything on your schedule so that you can see how much extra time you might have.

Define your boundaries

If you know that everytime you hear a new baby is on the way you want to make a quilt for them and then you end up burning the midnight oil finishing it, decide now who gets quilts and who doesn’t.  Make a rule for yourself.

If you know that every Christmas you end up making 25 different types of cookies because there are so many great recipes to try, put some cookie time in your schedule and then pick just the number of cookies that you can reasonably make in that time.  Your family loves a relaxed you more than your cookies, I promise!

Realize the overcommitting is not nice

Just like overcommitting to others is not nice to them, it’s also not nice to you.  Adding stress to your life by expecting too much from yourself is not taking care of yourself. You deserve your care.

In the moment

Can there really be an ‘in the moment’ with yourself?  Yes.  This is why DELIBERATE determination is so important.  Every little thing you want to do takes time away from something else you could be doing.

Be courteous

When something new pops up in your life that you want to start doing, be kind to yourself.  Explore why you want to do this thing.  Is it meeting a need?

Take time

Don’t rush into making a goal and squeezing it into your schedule. If it’s a really good thing it deserves to be planned and considered so that it really does happen.  If it sounds like you can never be spontaneous, nonsense.  You should have margin in your schedule for that!  But big commitments and dreams deserve serious consideration so that they can get done well.  Be cautious about removing something to make room – are you sure that the new thing is really better than what you will be giving up?  Are you chasing something new because the work on the old was starting to get too hard?  Maybe you need to stick it out a little longer?

Be honest and firm

If you want to do something, but it just doesn’t fit or make sense right now, accept that.  Put that idea or opportunity on a list somewhere you can review it.  Maybe it will make sense later. Maybe it will look ridiculous later.  Time is a great sorter of desires.  

Offer an alternative IF appropriate

There is probably some reason this thing you want to do looks so appealing.  Maybe you really want to spend more time sewing.  Maybe you really love trying out new cookie recipes.  Respect that reason.  See if there’s another way you could satisfy that sewing urge that doesn’t take so much time.  Spread that baking time over the course of the whole year instead of letting the urge build up until Christmas.

Ready to say no?

Be prepared by knowing your priorities, defining your boundaries and remembering that overcommitting is not nice.  When someone asks you to do something, be courteous, take your time, and be honest and firm.

What have you said no to lately?

I’d love to hear what you’ve said no to!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *