Can you meet tomorrow?
No, I’m sorry- but I can meet on Friday.
Can you look this over for me?
No, if I review your paper ahead of time, I have to be available for the whole class.
Can I watch TV.
How many times a day do you say no?
When it comes to your kids, you can probably think of many times where you’ve said no. As parents, we know that we need to set boundaries and guidelines. If boundaries are hard for your to set or maintain, check out Permission to Parent and read the blog post on the importance of limits. For whatever reason, it’s often easier in our parental life than in our personal and professional life to say “no.”
In the workplace, there are likely many factors that contribute to saying yes to what people ask of you. Aside from something being a part of our job responsibilities, you may say yes to any number of requests because:
- You’ve simply been asked and it feels wrong to say no
- You feel you can get it done
- You worry no one else will do it
- You want to show you’re a team player
- You don’t want to be seen as someone who doesn’t help
In your personal life, you may struggle with saying no for similar reasons. You may find that you’ve committed to hosting events, baking for causes, attending playdates and more, all because saying no is hard. In your personal life, saying no may be a challenge because you’re being asked to do things or attend events that sound fun and enjoyable. The challenge, though, is that when we always (or often) say yes, then we are hardly ever saying no. And saying no is important because it protects your time, focus, energy, and enjoyment.
Saying “no” may feel uncomfortable because you may be declining someone’s well-intended direct request. However, by saying “yes” too often you run the risk of becoming over-scheduled, over-worked, over-tired, and out of balance.
[bctt tweet=”By saying “yes” too often you run the risk of becoming over-scheduled, over-worked, over-tired, and out of balance.” username=”GetMomBalanced”]
How can you improve at saying no?
One way to handle the challenge is that when a request is made of you that will take time and energy, respond with something like “Thank you for asking me. Before I say yes, I want to make sure I can give this the attention it deserves. Can I get back to you in X days (or hours)?”
What this does is gives you time to think and really decide before you commit. You can consider what you currently have going on, along with what is coming up, and decide based on thought rather than because someone asked. If saying no in person feels hard, then give your answer through text or email. Keep it simple and straightforward for example, “Thank you for asking me to be involved in the bake sale. Unfortunately, I can’t help with this one, but hopefully I’ll have time for the next one.” Text and email can easily lead to miscommunication so short and sweet is best if you aren’t able to check in over the phone or face-to-face.
Remember that saying no is okay and that when you do it, you’re not only protecting your time and energy, but you’re also modeling for others that it can be an appropriate response. We can help our friends understand it’s okay to say no to the playdate when they’re over scheduled (this way we’re not waiting 20 minutes for them because they scheduled us back to back). We can show our colleagues that taking on one more project isn’t always a good thing (and that we’re not showing up with it half-done, or presenting it like a zombie because we had to stay up all night).
Though we don’t necessarily want our kids to tell us no, by watching us do it and helping to show the times it is acceptable, we are setting the stage for them to be more comfortable saying no later on. You may not be excited about this now but trust me, it’s a good skill to have. Our willingness to set boundaries with the word “no” is important for ourselves, our families and those we interact with.
Let us know- what benefits have you found from saying no to something?