Yes, You Can Say No

Do most of us feel the way I do when family, office or a volunteer organization asks you to do something to which you feel you cannot commit? Not too many of us want to be thought of as the grouch, so you start to say “no” but “yes” slips out.

Understand why you have a hard time saying no.

Part of it is that when we were young, and our Mama asked us to do something, we were taught to say yes.

When we were older, and our friends asked us to commit, we felt, to keep their friendship, we said yes again.

Then when we had our first job, we wanted to please our boss or be accepted by other team members, and again we said yes.

Socially, we say yes because we don’t want to let people down and sometimes because we feel trapped.

So, when you feel pressured for a yes, don’t give the yes — relieve the pressure. Ask for time. This will allow you to calm down and properly evaluate whether you really want to agree or not. You might want to use one of the sentences below:

“I’ll have to call you back in a few minutes.”

“Let me check with my husband/wife/partner to see if we’re free that day.”

“I need to check my calendar; I’ll get back to you.”

“I’ve got to think about that; I’ll let you know.”

When you make your decision and it is no, don’t beat around the bush, Speak in a calm voice. You might say, “I’m sorry I can’t right now but will let you know when and if I can.” This approach is polite and puts you in a position of power by changing the dynamic. You’re taking charge, telling people you’ll let them know when and if you can. Another example, “I appreciate your asking me for help, but I’m stretched too thin right now to devote the time to be of quality help to you.”

If a supervisor at work asks you to take on more tasks–more than you can handle, you might say “I will be happy to take on the tasks; however, I have X,Y, and Z already on my to-do list, so please tell me how you would like me to prioritize them?

By saying no, you are saying:

“Yes” to spending more time with your loved ones, family and friends instead of doing something you really don’t want to do.

“Yes” to maintaining your sanity.

“Yes” to a more reasonable workload instead of burying yourself.

“Yes” to having time to do more things that are meaningful to you.

Don’t feel guilty. Remember that your self-worth does not depend on how much you do for other people. Even though I still struggle sometimes, learning to say no has been one of the best things I have done for myself. Not only has it challenged me to overcome my fear of rejection, it has helped me to feel in control. I don’t feel trapped, resentful or guilty anymore. Instead, I feel empowered and free.

If you want that same feeling of freedom and empowerment, then take control, challenge yourself, and learn to say no.

Judi Hendrickson of Wheeling is the co-author with Dr. Jeanne Finstein of “Walking Pleasant Valley.” She teaches etiquette and presents programs on Tea Time Traditions, the History and Etiquette of Tea and Wedding Traditions.


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