Overworked, overstressed, overtired, overloaded, overbooked and just plain over it. If any of these words describe you, you are not alone! Many of us rely on smartphones, coffee, and quick meals on the go to get through our days. The idea of being busy has become a badge of honor, and we pack our days with more and more things to do. When deadlines, activities, texts and get togethers seem to overtake your life, you may need to learn to say “no”. Two little letters, but when put together in a simple word, they can transform your life.
Why say no?
It allows you to say “yes” to something else. When you are asked to co-chair your work holiday party, you know it will take some extra time at the end of the day or in the mornings. This is time away from family, kids and friends. Think of saying “no” to that activity as saying “yes” to bettering other relationships that need your focus. Before saying “yes” to an activity, really think if there is a better “yes” that needs your attention.
You will honor and respect both the invitee and yourself. Many times we say yes to a dozen invites in a single day because we don’t want to disappoint anyone. Then what happens is we are able to pop in to a few of those activities for 10 minutes, and miss the others entirely because we overbooked. You will honor your friends and peers more if you pick a few activities that are really important and plan to “be” there – fully present, engaged and content.
Don’t say yes simply because it’s “tradition” or you do it every year. A few years ago, my family decided that, for Christmas, we would eliminate most of the gift giving. Being together with the traditions of the season was more important than the stress of picking out the perfect presents, which none of us needed anyway. When we did this, we found that the gifts that were given had more thought and personal touches. Some people gave money to a favorite charity as the gift. We all loved the new tradition and are happy to continue it! If you have a new idea for a less stressful family or work gathering, share it. Don’t be surprised if many people agree with you!
How do you say no?
Honestly, politely and assertively. You do not need to be aggressive or defensive, and you do not need to feel guilty. You definitely are not required to give a reason. A simple “no” can be sufficient, but if you feel you need to give a reason be honest and don’t make up an excuse. If you are feeling nervous or on the fence, don’t be afraid to ask for more time. “Thank you so much for thinking of me! I have some other activities that week, so let me look at my calendar. Can I get back to you?”
Say thank you first. We can get so busy searching for excuses and trying to explain away our busy-ness that we don’t even acknowledge the invitation. People are inviting you to do something – talk, give, attend, cook, whatever – because they like you and respect you. Thank them for thinking of you, no matter what the invitation is.
Respond with an invitation in return. If you are feeling bad about saying no to an invite, or really would like to say yes and can’t, tell them! Say, “Thank you so much but I can’t make it to dinner tonight. I would love to see you though! I’m going for a walk tomorrow afternoon, would you like to join me?” You might get a no in response, but the other person will appreciate the effort.
Saying no has gotten a bad reputation in our society. We feel we need to say yes to please everyone and be a good friend, a good parent or a good employee. Just remember, you are a good friend, a good parent and a good employee because of who you are and how you act, not how full your calendar is. By developing a habit of being conscious about what you commit to and giving those things the attention they deserve, you will honor what is important in your life. And remember, there will always be another party to attend!
Have you found any strategies for saying no effectively? Do you have any stories of a time you said “no” and ended up focusing your attention on something that needed you more?