I hate those moments when someone asks me to do something and my people pleasing side thinks, “You don’t want to look bad. You can make time, go ahead and say yes”, but my true self is saying, “No way, you have enough on your plate already. Don’t add more!!!”
Ever have those moments? You say yes, and then later think, “Why the hell did I do that?” Perhaps you also drive the people around you crazy because you complain about it all the way up to the event and even afterwards.
So, how do we say no with ease? How do we stand up for ourselves and let others down easily?
STEP ONE: Buy time
In most situations, the asker doesn’t actually need an answer instantaneously. Maybe it can wait 5 minutes, or maybe it can wait 5 days. Either way, giving yourself time will allow you to consider how saying yes (or saying no) aligns with your core values and your universal needs.
Consider creating a rule around responding to requests. Maybe every time someone asks you for something you give yourself 24 hours to think about it. Once you do this enough times, it will become a regular habit.
If the person does need an answer that minute, you can say something like, “If you need an answer right away, I am going to have to pass, but thanks for thinking of me.”
STEP TWO: Reflect
Even if you are jumping up and down about the idea of doing whatever it is, still take some time to reflect. How does the request align with your core values? How does it align with your needs? How does it align with your vision for yourself and your future? If you were to say yes, why are you doing so? Are you really excited about the prospect, or are you just trying to look good in the eyes of the asker?
Remember that every time you say YES, you are also saying NO to something else.
Is the trade-off worth it?
STEP THREE: Practice your No
Consider practicing your “No” conversation before you have it for real. Since you already bought yourself time, you can role-play with a friend or your partner. Ask them to try to negotiate with you, flatter you, or manipulate you. Having a run-through will take a lot of the fear out of the situation.
STEP FOUR: Say No
Start off by thanking the asker for thinking of you (people like this), then politely and respectfully decline. You don’t need to give a reason right away. Definitely don’t lie (lies always come back to bite us in the ass later.) If the asker then questions why you can’t, feel free to give them a reason that is tied to your core values and universal needs. It’s hard to question someones values, so this prevents them from trying to change your mind and negotiate with you. If they try to manipulate you, cajole you, or make you feel bad for saying no, stand firm. Your values and needs are your foundation.
It might sound something like this:
YOU: John Doe, I wanted to get back to you about your request for me to present at next month’s meeting.
ASKER: Oh, yeah, so what do you think?
YOU: I really appreciate you thinking of me, but I have to say no at this time.
ASKER: Why? I think you would do a great job. You are such a great public speaker. (A little flattery to try to get you to change your mind.)
YOU: Thanks for the compliment, but I still can’t. I have a lot going on already, and I can’t add more to my plate because it will mean taking time away from my family. My family is too important to me.
ASKER: Are you sure? I have no idea who to ask if you can’t do it. (manipulation)
YOU: Yes, I am sure. You will find someone great. Thanks again for asking.
In theory, it is super simple, but in practice it’s pretty hard. We are so wired to avoid judgement that we often do things we don’t want to in order to please others and look good in their eyes.
It’s okay to say no, especially when your no is in alignment with your values.
It's Your Life. Live it Boldly (by Practicing Saying No).