Some things are easy to say No to.

  • A plastic bag at the supermarket checkout.
  • A second helping of dessert when your tummy’s full.
  • A 2-for-1 voucher from a stranger on the street for a service you don’t use.

Actually, you are probably skilled at saying no to lots of things. In those cases, it rolls off the tongue. There are no hard feelings. It’s said and accepted and everyone moves on with their life.

But there are other times when it feels uncomfortable to say No. Opportunities and requests come your way. Some sound exciting. Some sound dreadful but the request comes from someone you find it hard to refuse. Maybe it’s someone you admire, someone you want to please or someone you feel obliged to.

In other words, it’s easy to say no to a plastic bag but not so easy to say no to an out-of-the-blue request from your child’s teacher to host a class family event. You may be ready for the usual checkout question but completely caught off guard by the teacher’s request. You feel flattered. You want to help. In the moment, you may be excited by the thought of using your event-planning skills, expanding your network and contributing to the community.

And just like that, a week later, you feel tired, overwhelmed and resentful as you spend hours putting together an event that you hadn’t counted on when you already had enough on your to do list. That to do list probably contained a bunch of other things you hadn’t counted on either.

So how can you stop this from happening again? Learn to say No and be ok with it.

It starts with knowing what to say Yes to. When you know have a clear vision for how your day will run, how you’ll meet deadlines, how you’ll spend your evenings, you will find that saying no to things that get in the way of those things becomes easier.

Once you know what belongs on your to do list – those things you say Yes to – you can start to identify anything that doesn’t belong. And start to practice saying No.Say No

10 Ways to Say No

  1. No thanks.
  2. My schedule is already full.
  3. I don’t have time to give it the attention it needs.
  4. I have other commitments that need my focus.
  5. I’m not the right person for the job.
  6. It’s not something I’m interested in.
  7. Not right now.
  8. Thank you for thinking of me but I just can’t.
  9. That won’t be possible.
  10. No.

And then there’s Maybe

A close friend of saying No is saying Maybe. There’s nothing wrong with being non-committal. If you need something to help your decision go ahead and ask for it.

  • Ask for time to think about it
  • Ask for more information
  • Ask for a compromise
  • Ask for help with the task

I learned to say Maybe and gather information before saying either Yes or No when my children were teenagers. They would urgently need an answer to their questions. For instance, “Can I go to the movies with my friends on Friday night? I have to know now. They’re waiting for an answer.” They soon got used to my answer and even expect it. “Give me all the information. Who’s going? What movie? Which cinema? Who’s driving you? What time?” Only when I had the satisfactory answers did I give mine.

It’s about taking control of your own time and to do list.

The Lesson

Let’s face it, sometimes the hardest person to say No to is yourself. A bright shiny object comes along and it is so tempting to chase that thing. But wait!

Step outside of yourself for a moment and say Maybe. Take time, gather information, think of the possibilities and the consequences. And when you’re ready, then say either No or Yes.

And start living with purpose and intention.


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