There's something to be said to being open to new things; a lot of wonderful opportunities in my life have come along when I said yes to something that I wasn't totally sure about at the time.
But more often than not, I feel like as a society, we say yes things when we should have said no. It could be going out to a social function, it could be committing to a volunteer effort, it could be taking on a project at work... These things show up in various forms, but the result in any case is annoyance and overwhelm.
When to Say No
It's difficult to place any sort of rules when it comes to this sort of thing. However, I do have a series of thoughtful questions that you may find useful when trying to decide to say "Yes" or "No" to medium- and large-sized decisions.
If nobody else's feelings were involved with this decision (e.g. nobody to disappoint with a no, nobody to impress with a yes), what would your decision be?
How will I feel about a Yes vs No decision one year from now? Five years? Twenty years?
If I say yes, will I be able to change my mind later?
Obviously, accepting a dinner invitation requires less thoughtful introspection than running for a vice chair of your neighborhood council. But these are some good guideposts.
Why to Say No
Ok, let's talk more about the whole reason why No is not a bad word. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning said, let me count the ways...
- If you say Yes to everything, even things that aren't a great fit, eventually you'll run out of space to be able to say yes. And what if you say Yes to something that's just "eh" and then the most perfect thing comes along, but you're too busy and miss it, or just aren't able to commit -- because you're committed to "eh."
- You're spreading yourself too thin. I put that in bold because pretty much everybody I know is doing that.
- You only have so much time and energy (both physical and emotional) to go around. And some of that energy must be dedicated to maintaining your energy and practicing self care. And yes, you deserve to support yourself however you need.
How to Say No
I have a 3-step process for saying no with ease and effectiveness.
- First, understand the alternatives and options. Identify if there is a better solution out there (maybe someone else other than you, or maybe you are a No to what was offered but Yes to something else).
- Secondly, say no with clarity and conviction -- no wavering or confusing language. No need to be apologetic; it's a no, say no. Also, I suggest only providing a reason or background if it is needed, and being very specific and limited. Then, if appropriate, make any alternatives.
- End with gratitude. Be grateful and thankful for this opportunity that was made available to you -- and be grateful to yourself to be able to make a thoughtful choice.
How do you say no? Would love to hear your stories -- share with us on Facebook or Instagram!