Say No for a Change.

[via fotogail on Flickr}
[via fotogail on Flickr}

How do you feel when you need to say no to someone?

  • Guilty?
  • Mean?
  • Offensive?
  • Lazy?

I am very bad at saying no. I won’t even list the ways here, because that wouldn’t be a post – that would be a report. A long one.

Suffice to say I have had several awkward conversations recently all because I struggle to say no.

But I came to a realisation recently, that is helping me reframe what no means. Or rather, what my frequent yeses mean.

Our time, resources and energy is finite, so by saying yes to one thing, we are saying no to another.

Saying yes to one thing means saying no to another.

  • Saying yes to that skirt means saying no to dinner out with friends. (Money is finite.)
  • Saying yes to that committee means saying no to watching your son play soccer. (Time is finite.)
  • Saying yes to another hour of TV at night means saying no to early morning yoga. (Energy is finite.)
  • Saying yes to the door-to-door salesman means saying no to the charity collector. (Money.)
  • Saying yes to another sporting committment means saying no to time with your partner. (Time.)
  • Saying yes to becoming a mentor means saying no to another opportunity. (Energy.)

I’m not saying that these yeses are wrong. It’s wonderful to help people, to be involved, to bond and be active.

We just need to remember that there are two sides to this coin. One yes equals one no.

Thinking about it this way helps me feel OK saying no when I usually would have caved in and said yes.  If you have the same internal struggle when it comes to saying no, when you’re next faced with the prospect of saying no, ask yourself:

Is this an important yes? Or am I saying yes simply because I don’t want to face saying no?


Tell me, do you struggle saying no? How do you overcome it?



7 Responses to Say No for a Change.

  1. Excellent post. I have a technique for saying no (at least for time commitment sorts of things) I just say that I already have plans. Nobody needs to know that my “plans” might consist of nothing more than a long soak in a hot bathtub!

    CatMan (my better half) has worked as an independent contractor for many years, and he says that it’s crucial to remember that your first and most important client is always yourself… He’ll use his mysterious “other client” whenever he needs a convenient way to put off a meeting or get out of some form-over-substance time suck that one of his “paying clients” wants him to engage in. They don’t need to know that his commitment to his “other client” might be taking a long bike ride.

    And I don’t consider it to be dishonest either. It’s just a socially acceptable way of telling the world that you’re putting yourself first. It’s sad that our society places so little value on self care… that a commitment to one’s personal wellbeing is seen as “not counting,” but that part isn’t my responsibility.

    • I like it!
      I agree about needing a socially acceptable way of taking that time without all the explanations and justification for taking it…the other client or other plans just take care of the matter in a flash.
      Love the quick, clean and effective nature of that.

  2. I know Elton John sang that Sorry seems to be the hardest word but I disagree. No is the worst to say, something to do with the fact that if they are asking me then they must like me/ respect me / realise I’m a sucker. I’ve got better at saying no as I get older but that’s all tied up with self confidence and a desire to slow down, simplify and put my family first.

  3. I decided I needed to take a one year sabbatical from all the stuff I was doing and in charge of. There was a lot. I’ve always done too much. I finished the commitments I had, said I would be unable to continue past the time I had signed on for and even told people I was simply taking a year off.
    NO ONE got mad. Several sounded envious.
    I decided that all those things that wouldn’t get done unless I did them must not be that important, or someone would step up. Do you know, some things never continued, some things were missed and some things others chose to do. Whatever happened, I had separated my heart from them for that year.
    Guess what? That was…five years ago…and now my life is so radically different that it seems like a lifetime ago. And I’ll never go back. I have the time to do many of the things I want to do now.
    I’ve lost a lot in terms of $ and security and even friendships because of where we are now, but I have gained love and freedom and TIME. I even get to read and rest when I need it. I can go play in the snow, or swing in my hammock, depending on the weather. I have a LIFE.

  4. I am learning to say no, in the beginning I felt guilty but now… everytime I do it I feel RELIEVED and proud of myself.

  5. This was my biggest problem since i own a tiny business where every client counts, but i’ve learned that if i don’t say NO i burn out and then nobody wins.

  6. I can actually say “no” to non-family pretty easy. I try to say yes if I can, but if it won’t work, I will absolutely say no.

    But when it comes to my family, I have a really hard time saying no. If I have to say no, I tend to say something like: “I can’t do it then but I could do it later.” I feel better if I can offer an alternative.