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Help, I don't know how to say No!

Saying No Horia Varlan from FlickrImage Credit: Horia Varlan (Flickr)

This is Part 3 in a series of 3 articles about Saying No kindly.

In Part 1, we took a look at how stressful it is, and what stress does to the body, when we keep taking on too much. In Part 2, we've had a look at why it's really good for ourselves AND others to learn to turn down some requests. If by this time you feel like saying "Oh no, I can never use that word", breathe deeply.... Here are some tips to do it kindly.

I used to have no idea where to find the language to say no. "No" sounded horrible, cold and unkind and brought me images of conflict, an angry person or someone crying from hurt or disappointment. Before we look at a few phrases and practical tips for a kind "no", let's just back up a bit.

Values - You need to know yours

To make a reasonable decision about whether to help someone out or not, it's imperative to know your own values and priorities.   If you don't, it's too easy to be sucked into helping someone when you were meant to focus on your own project. Your values give you a compass to make decisions about yes/no much easier.

The absolute first step is to determine your values, have them in a place where you can easily see them every day and refer back to them when you receive a help-request. An exercise on How to Determine your values will follow in a later blog.

Give me an Example where saying no would be good?

Let's say your friend asked you to babysit her toddler this coming Saturday for 4 hours. You know it's a very energetic toddler and you won't be able to sit still for a moment. You have actually already planned a really quiet Saturday afternoon because you've had a hard week and need the rest.

So now that you know your values, and you've decided that you can't possibly fit this request in as well, here are the steps to follow:

  • Take the pressure off!

Anytime you receive a request of any kind, start making it a habit to say "I don't have my diary with me – I'd like to get back to you about that." Now the immediate pressure is off, you can go back and CHECK your list of priorities, current projects, and values. If your highest value is "time with family" and babysitting means you will be deprived of that – you know what the best answer is, don't you?

  • Get back to her at a convenient time.

Do that when you feel energetic and resourceful and centred inside, NOT a time that you feel sapped, tired or depleted – that will make it so much harder to have this conversation.

  • Do one of the following:

Instead of just saying "sorry, I can't help you" (I know, that's terribly uncomfortable!):

  • Give her another option (for instance – I can't help this Saturday, I can help Sunday)
  • Suggest another person (I can't help, but my daughter would be delighted to earn pocket money)
  • Acknowledge your limitations (I'm not the best person for the job, my diary is crammed, I've run out of energy) or
  • Acknowledge your needs (I really need the rest, I'm not going to be at my best)

So your sentence may be something like:

"Joan, I'm sorry that this time I can't help out. I am absolutely exhausted and really need to admit to myself and to you, that I need the rest on Saturday. I am totally willing to help you the Saturday after. Can we schedule that?"

Sometimes, when we start saying no, it's uncomfortable to admit that we need rest. It may not sound like a good enough reason! In that case, you are completely entitled to say "I already have another appointment scheduled for that day". No-one needs to know what that appointment is, who it is with and what it's for. That's 100% your own business and you don't need to share that information.

Go ahead and try this mini-recipe and let me know how it worked for you. There are 24 different phrases in my book that you can use to say "no" in kind and respectful ways. If you want to learn all of them, purchase the book on Amazon AND receive a completely free e-course to help you implement the new strategies. 

Great news:

If you purchase the hard copy of "No Problem. The Upside of Saying No", you can now get the Kindle version for only $1.99!


Stop the Overwhelm Part 1
Why is "Saying No" a Good Thing?

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“There were many things in her life she’d like to change. Not being able to do it all overnight was no reason to lose hope. She decided to take it slow and steady, one small step at a time. That was a good way to create a life filled with love, friendship and joy.” - Queenisms ™

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