Saying no is one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself. Saying no frees you to live a life you feel great about living and tells others that you value and respect yourself.
You can say no as often as you like. It’s totally okay to say no. In fact, it just might be the best thing you can do for your career. When you focus your activities on what really matters you will achieve more.
Saying no can also be intimidating. You might wonder if you should just do it. Well, I live by philosophy of not shoulding myself (or others)! There’s nothing I need to do, and if I feel obligated to do something I don’t really want to do then chances are I’m not doing right by myself and if I can’t do right by me, how can I do right by anyone else?
You may worry that you’ll disappoint someone by saying no but sometimes you have to disappoint the right people. You’re the only person that can make your life awesome and it’s an awesome responsibility. You can’t be anything great for anyone else if you’re not great for you.
The idea of saying no is all well and good, of course, but saying no in the moment is harder than it sounds if you’re used to saying yes. When I am trying to change a behavior I find it helps to have some idea how to respond the next time I’m faced with making a better choice for my life. As a recovered yesser, here are some of the ways I learned to say no.
How to say no
Usually when someone makes a request or offer it is because they value my skills and experience. Starting with “thank you for thinking of me” is a respectful way to acknowledge the request and be gracious about it, whether or not I choose to say no.
Agreeing to a request I can’t honestly follow through on harms my reputation, my character, and myself. If I don’t have the time or energy to give, I need to say no!
Respond with truth, not with fear.
I once accepted a job offer I had serious reservations about because I was recently laid off and I was afraid of being unemployed. Boy, was that a mistake! The work environment was hostile and discriminatory and I ended up quitting a few months later. If I had trusted my instincts about the job offer I could have saved myself months of unmanageable stress and even more fear.
I am not trusting myself when I respond from a place of fear. Fear isn’t a fact, it’s an emotion. It’s important to consider what’s true for me and follow my truth when making important decisions.
Ask for more time.
When saying no is especially difficult I can ask for time to give my response. I use this extra time to take a deep breath, focus my thoughts, and honestly consider if I am willing and able to agree to the request or offer. Taking this time to make the right decision for me makes it a little easier to say no when I need to.
Offer to do something else instead.
Sometimes I am unable or unwilling to do what is being asked of me but there may be something else I can do. Offering my assistance under different terms is an effective way to honor myself and my goals, and help someone else out in the process!
Let others be responsible.
It can be tempting to fall into the trap of thinking that other people can’t do it without you, but the truth is they can and will. I once read, “if I don’t drop the ball, no one else can pick it up.” Give someone else the opportunity to take the ball and run with it!
Anytime I can’t decide just how to respond I know I need to THINK it through. I’m on the right track when my response is True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, and Kind.
“No” is a complete sentence.
When I try to justify saying no I usually find my position weakening and sometimes I even start to doubt myself! You don’t have to explain yourself- it’s enough to say no.