Updated: Jun 6
For a lot of us, saying no is one of the most difficult tasks. In fact, it is just something that goes against our nature. Even though there are so many times we wish we could have or would have.
How would you like to know a really effective way to say no without actually having to use the word?
If we back up for just a quick minute, I want you to reflect on what it looks like, feels like, when you say yes to everything and everybody.
Perhaps you have a sibling that calls on you to help with every situation, big or small and they are always requests for immediate attention. Or, maybe you have a friend that likes to attend a lot of events but relies on you to be the wing person because she doesn’t like to be alone. How does it look at work? Do you often find “invitations” to help get something completed that was not originally on your task list?
So, what do you do with the plan you created for yourself? Do you push your things down on the calendar or priority list to make room for these requests? Do you keep everything right where it is and just pile these things on top?
How does that feel inside? Do you feel regret? Dread? Animosity? Tension?
Do you wear your ability to be all things to all people as a badge? Do you hear yourself talking about all the things you have to do, and the things others need from you?
Let’s get you into the first position! Living for yourself first and doing for others as it sits appropriately for you.
I’m going to give you some real-life examples here, so you don’t even have to guess how to say what when!
When you “sister” calls with the newest crisis or situation she can’t manage alone try this:
• “Wow sis, I can see why this is a difficult “thing” for you, I would love to help. Let me look at my schedule and see how soon I can be available to help you. I will call you back in an hour.
Next, you will sit with her need while looking at what you have for yourself, evaluate how important your “things” are for you, and decide if today is a good day for you to modify your plan, or if doing so will bring you negative feelings.
Because here are your options to respond with – in an hour, AFTER and NOT BEFORE, you have considered YOU:
• I was able to move some things around and can be to you at 2 pm
• I have the ability to help you while I am out doing my “things” if you are willing to “tag-along”
• Today is just really a tight day for me but I can definitely help you with that on Thursday. Does that work?
The next time you are invited to an event or social gathering instead of impulsively committing yourself with a big “yes, count me in” just so you can dread it every day until it comes, constantly wondering how you can get out of it – do this:
• That sounds like a blast, I certainly will consider joining you. When do you need to know? I have to look at my calendar for that month (week, day…)
• Or, hmm that sounds interesting, not too sure it’s really something that I would normally go to, but I definitely want to consider joining you. When do you need to know?
Now you are going to go through a similar process as you did with your sisters’ situation. You are going to sit with your true and genuine thoughts, feelings, and desires pertaining to this invitation. If it is going to cause distress you will decline. If it is going to be uncomfortable, explore how, sometimes those are the things we need to do to foster personal growth, therefore, perhaps you would be better served to accept. And if it is something you truly want to do but you are booked on that date, weigh your pros and cons of maneuvering your schedule to accommodate the activity, if it is not possible decline, but, if you can without causing an issue in other areas, accept! This will sound like:
• I wish I could join you, unfortunately, it just isn’t something I can commit to in the timeframe necessary.
• I have to be honest, I’m apprehensive, but I have decided to step outside my comfort zone and join you. (no canceling once you do this!)
• I truly want to join you for this event. I have been over and over my calendar, and unfortunately, any changes I make to what is on my schedule will cause more stress than the benefit of attending. Please keep me in mind for the next “event” I really want to be incorporating this type of activity into my life.
Now for professional situations, insert the colleague that asks if you can help them compile the data they need for one of their assignments (or whatever version fits your line of work) and has abruptly interrupted your focus to ask this favor, do this:
• Can you put that “request” down right there, I will look at it when I am finished with this “task” and let you know if I can incorporate “it” into my day. Give me an hour.
• Can you give me 10 min to finish what I am working on? I want to hear what your need is so I can give you an informed answer.
• If your request is not an immediate need, I would be happy to prioritize it into my day. I will need to review my deadlines first, however. Can I give you an estimated time for attention in a half-hour?
From there you simply do what you have said you will do. If you find you have to say no you might want to present your answer like this:
• I looked at your “need”, unfortunately, it will require more time than I have to offer today. I did look at the remainder of my week and feel that I could produce the information for you by Thursday if that helps you out at all. But I would need you to let me know today if you still want me to work on it.
• After reviewing what you are looking for, I don’t feel that I can help you with that today. I can however lend you a hand with that tomorrow if that is useful. Just let me know today so I make sure to carve out the time in tomorrow’s schedule.
• I reviewed my deadlines and your request. I feel confident that I can complete that for you by the end of the week. Does that work for you?
If at any time what works for you does not work for them your response is typically as simple as saying:
• I am sorry I wasn’t able to help/support you on this. Hopefully next time I will have more flexibility.
Now to warn you, this isn’t anywhere as easy as it reads here in this blog. There is a depth to shifting into this ability. And we do a great deal of skill-building leading up to incorporating this one.
But give it a try. See how you do. If you find that you are running into a wall, call me, or sign up for the Learn to Live for Yourself program, I will coach you!