We live in a me-culture of self-absorbed people with self-focused agendas, reluctant to serve the people around them. “I just can’t be bothered with that…or you.” But if we aren’t careful, we can fall into the other ditch that says, “Yes, I will be anything and everything you ask of me from now until the end of time.” Sadly, the people we say this line to–not verbatim of course–are often the people we care about the least.
How many bosses, acquaintances, and frenemies are told, “Yes,” when our families, closest friends, and children are given the leftovers? Why do we feel obligated to impress and please the people who are the most distant from us and give so little effort into extending our ‘yeses’ to our own crew?
Since we were a young age, my mom encouraged us, “It’s okay to say ‘no’. You don’t have to do it all.” She led by word and example and didn’t allow guilt or obligation push her into something she knew she wasn’t supposed to do (or wasn’t best for her family).
In addition to the art of declining, she encouraged us, “You don’t have to tell them why.” Be gracious. Be kind. And be succinct.
Maralee McKee, the Manners Mentor, gives this sage advice: “
1. Be True to Yourself, Your Convictions, and Your Priorities.
First, let’s deal with the whole guilt thing. We feel guilty saying no when we don’t have a firm grasp on our priorities and convictions.
Here’s your five-part formula for saying no:
1.) Start with a compliment if one fits the situation.
2.) Give your answer.
3.) Say thank you.
4.) Encourage the person.
5.) Change the subject or excuse yourself.
All the way through from step one to five … keep your demeanor light, and, of course, smile. A smile says “No hard feelings.” (for more from McKee, go here).
For some reason, we often feel obligated to say “yes” to every invitation and if we say “no” we have to bank a valid reason (aka…give that person an excuse). Instead, we can merely say, “That’s so thoughtful of you, but it won’t work out for me to do that.” Gracious. Kind. Direct.
“Replying with a firm answer within a day is the Gold Standard. Don’t wimp out and be vague with your answer to avoid hurting their feelings. It raises false hope for them, makes you seem indecisive, and slows down their process of determining who is going to be helping.”~Maralee McKee
—I appreciate your request, but I have other priorities that supersede your extra work right now.
—I can do that for you, but understand that something else on my list will have to wait until next week (or be left unfinished altogether). (learned that one from my hubs).
—I appreciate that you trust me with the extra task, but I have too many other things requiring my attention right now.
Remember that their ball fumbling or procrastination doesn’t dictate you catch the ball or jump with urgency, dropping all your own balls for someone else to pick up.
(for more ideas…see “How to Say “No” Graciously…”)
If you really enjoyed last time, but it’s not going to work this time, affirm your enthusiasm, but graciously decline (instead of changing previous plans or trying to add in both in one day):
—We had so much fun last time and I truly wish we could say ‘yes’ but we are going to need to decline this time.
—I’m sorry I can’t this time. I wish you all the best.
—We enjoy your company, but we are keeping this week more family-oriented and quiet. Could we plan something next month?
Sometimes we have no trouble telling our spouses, parents, and kids no, usually subconsciously because our schedules are so overpacked from telling other people ‘yes’, but sometimes we need to told that it’s okay to tell our family members ‘no’ as well.
If you are uncomfortable doing something, say so: in this case, letting them understand your reason for ‘no’ will prevent further dialogues from cropping up again and again.
—“I appreciate your need, but I’m not comfortable loaning family members money. I can give you [amount you are comfortable with] as a one-time gift.”
–“As fun as it could be, I have a policy of not working with family. Our relationship is too valuable to me to put it in jeopardy.”
–“I love you, but I think it’s for the best that I say ‘no’. “
Start thinking about taking ownership and control of your life by changing your lingo from “I probably should…” to “I choose to…”
“It’s only by saying NO that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.” – Steve Jobs