It is possible to be truthful, kind to yourself and others and still say NO.
By the way I don’t always say NO, I have just made it a habit to check in with myself to make sure I am only saying YES to things that I can manage to deliver well and keep my own balance of health, family and work.
In my last blog “Just say No” I spoke about the freedom and joy saying no more often can bring, I promised to write another one on ways to say NO to the things that drain your energy, time and take you away from the things that matter to you.
I wanted to follow that up with some practical ways you can practice this more in your life at work and at home.
In my experience some of the reasons people (me included) say YES way too much are:
- Afraid of what people think of them if they don’t
- Want to be liked (people pleasing)
- Feel guilty for saying no
- Value others more than themselves
- Fear of letting someone down
None of those things are bad things in moderation, but when saying YES too much takes over your life and leads you to exhaustion, overwhelm, when you start to miss out on the relationships closest to you because you have too much on your plate for other people, then it is perhaps time to start saying NO more often.
TIP: Cop outs lead to more pain, and you only have to deal with it later, some cop outs may sound like:
- I will think about it, but you never get back to them, you leave them hanging
- I might be interested, but you have no intention of being interested so you just have to say NO later and you drag it out for both sides
- Maybe, when there is no maybe, you are just avoiding saying NO, ditto above
Making up a lie as to why you can’t, just say NO, it is kinder and living with integrity frees you from more guilt.
It is always better to be compassionately honest, the other person will appreciate it even if NO is not what they wanted to hear.
Saying NO strategy ideas (this is what works for me and others I have worked with, feel free to pick and choose your own strategy)
Extra requests on time:
When someone asks you to do something, more work, a new project, volunteer to contribute for something or run an event…etc, but you know you have heaps on your plate.
First thing I do, is I take a breath and ask myself these questions:
- Will saying YES mean that other things will suffer including my health and energy?
- Could this be done by someone else (not always my responsibility to find that person either)?
- Am I only saying YES because I think I ‘should’ or are afraid of what people will think if I say NO?
Give yourself time to process and give the answer that honours your time and energy best
If I feel my issue is saying YES because I am on the spot, I may ask nicely to think about it and get back to them, BUT I will always get back to them, otherwise you risk appearing rude and unreliable.
If I need to get back to them to say NO then I will do the following:
When thinking about how to land something with someone, I try to think about how I would like it said to me, that mostly helps – unless you are a ‘blunt’ person and ok with people being blunt, remember not everyone is OK with that, you may need to learn to put a little fluff around the word for relationship sake.
My goal is to clearly decline, so there is no maybe, I might be keen, if I know I am not, then I just have to deal with it later again and give false hope, and to maintain a good relationship with the person ie. Not cause offense, pain or too much inconvenience.
The first few examples have no explanation, you can learn to say NO without big justification, the person probably just wants a yes or a no anyway, not your life story, but if you are starting out on this journey it may be easier for you to practice by adding a small line at the end, it is for your benefit really, just to ease your guilt and help you to believe you have the right to say NO, but it can work like a ‘crutch’ for a while, so you can become more familiar with saying NO.
- Thank you for thinking of me for this XXXXXX unfortunately I am unable to take this on for you.
- I am flattered you thought of asking me, thanks, however I can’t fit it in right now.
- I will not be able to complete this in the time frame you’re are asking, sorry.
A bit more fluff for those who need it:
- Thank you for thinking of me for this XXXXXX unfortunately I am unable to take this on for you, due to family/work commitments.
- I am flattered you thought of asking me, thanks, however I can’t fit it in right now. My diary is full, and I wouldn’t do the project justice.
- My plate is really quite full right now, I would prefer someone else took this on, so it gets done in the time frame you are asking.
General lead ins for saying NO – the lead in is the way to start the sentence
- Thanks for thinking of me, however…..
- I appreciate you have a gap, however
- Thank you for asking, but
- Your charity sounds fantastic, however
- Thank you for taking the time to explain to me, however/but
Followed by ways to say NO nicely
- I am unable to fit it in right now
- I am unable to take this on for you
- No thank you
- Thank you, but no
- I donate to other charities and am at my capacity
- I am at capacity right now sorry
- Sorry but I am unable to help you right now
- Sorry I can’t help you
This topic can grow, and sometimes lead to people understanding they have a bigger issue with setting boundaries and taking care of themselves than just saying NO more often.
As a communication coach I help people with these strategies, I would be happy to answer any questions you have, feel free to get in touch.
Be brave, be honest, and honour yourself