Do you “no” someone who always says yes? I do. She is a very nice person, accommodating, resourceful, bright and very needy. By saying yes, she is really doing no one a favor, for she cannot follow through on all the requests. She is so busy helping everyone that she has no life and no time for herself. Perhaps that is because she does not really know what she wants, what she values or where she is going. In other words she never has time to sit down and determine her priorities. Perhaps she says “yes” out of guilt or fear or a strong desire to serve or be liked. It is a vicious circle, which many of us understand. Because we are so busy saying yes to everything, we have no life; and if we had the time for a life, we do not know enough about ourselves or our priorities to make something of it.
So it’s time to get a life and learn to say “No”
Know who you are and where you are
Take a good look at your values, goals and priorities. Write them down and post them so they are always visible. Have a calendar that you can access instantly. Keeping all this information in your head just gives the other person a leg up when they ask you to do something. The visible information show that you really know what is happening so you can respond with sincerity and honesty.
Don’t automatically say “yes”
It is sometimes our custom to say yes just to get rid of requests – not a great idea. Be proactive and anticipate what kind of requests you expect to receive on a regular basis or when a new project comes about. Decide how you are going to respond and pre-empt the decision by taking it up with the person beforehand. Discipline yourself to know instantly what you will and will not do and practice saying no in small stages until you are comfortable.
Before you respond
- Take a deep breath so you can structure what you are going to say
- Sleep on it so you have time to decide (or it looks like that) and you will give an honest and sincere answer. There is also the chance that they might not want to wait for the answer and will ask someone else or maybe they will forget about the request
- Get as much information as possible before you reply
- Decide if you are really the best person for the job
- Determine if it is the best use of your time
- See if you can delegate to others
- Realize that you are saying no to the request, not the person. This will make it easier to decide what to do.
- Realize you only have a limited amount of time and energy
How to respond
- Give a short explanation that contains a positive reinforcement.
“It sounds like a great idea, but I am going to have to say no”
“You are always so passionate about the projects you take on” but things are very busy right now and I don’t think I can make enough time to make a difference”
- Offer a conditional no
“I won’t be able to help you today. Can it wait until tomorrow?”
“I have only five minutes to spare, can I show you a few things to help you take care of this yourself?”
- Smile a BIG smile and firmly say “no”
- Use humor (only if you are funny).
- State the same message over and over again. Don’t waver.
- Stand firm and tall. Be pleasant and don’t talk in circles.
- Let them down easily by prefacing your remarks with:
“I trust you will understand…”
“This is an interesting request…”
“I’m flattered you want me to help…”
When we hesitate to say no it means that we are responding to others’ requests. If they are not in line with our priorities and goals then we are not respectful of our own needs. If we do not cater to our own life then we will have no energy or capacity to help others when they really need it.