How to Say ‘No’

I'm quite convinced that if we all became adept at the art of saying 'no' our lives would be much simpler, more balanced and decidedly less stressful. Many of us complain of feeling overwhelmed: we're madly busy with too many plates spinning, too much to do and with no time for relaxation, quiet reflection or 'down time.' But why…?

More often than not it's because we simply take on too much. There are only 24 hours in a day and it's impossible to keep trying to stuff more and more activities and commitments into those hours. Therefore, we need to make decisions about what's really important and how we want to spend our precious time.

The key point is that every time you say yes to something else you are, effectively, saying NO TO YOU. Yes, you'll volunteer to help with the school fete but that means saying no to time you might be spending on your own projects; time with your family; time for you.

It's not always easy to say 'no'. We don't want to appear rude or selfish or feel that we're letting people down; maybe we're flattered to be asked, perhaps saying 'no' implies we're not a team player, or perhaps we simply want to be liked.

If you find it hard to say 'no' here are a few tried and tested tips:

Play for Time
It's when we're put on the spot that we'll often revert to our default position of saying 'yes' automatically. So next time someone asks if you'll do something for them, volunteer or get involved in a new project, simply tell them that you need to check your diary and that you'll get back to them (in an hour or tomorrow or next week) and let them know.

The great thing about this strategy is that it gives you the space to decide whether this is something you genuinely want to do or whether it is, actually, a should.

Ask yourself: Can I commit to this wholeheartedly? If it's a yes, great. If not, then you'll need to get back to them and say no.

Another handy way to measure the relative merits of all those claims on your time is to consider the following:

By saying yes to ……………………………………………………….

I am saying no to ……………………………………………………..

If you've decided to bite the bullet and say 'no', how to do it in a way that feels comfortable…?

Use the Sandwich Technique
This is a brilliant device to use whenever you have anything to say to someone that you know they're not going to want to hear. You simply 'sandwich' the negative statement in between two positives. For example:

"Thanks so much for inviting me to be on your committee – it's really kind of you to think of me. Unfortunately I won't be able to take part this time, but I appreciate you getting in touch and wish you lots of luck with it."

It's a great way to say no gracefully – it makes it easier for the person to accept – and it also makes it more difficult for them to come back in an attempt to change your mind.

And finally …
Remember that learning how to say 'no' will boost your confidence, lower your stress levels and improve your work/life balance. Not only that, but others will respect you for it.

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