How to Say “No”

Saying “no” is not easy for most people I’ve met. Whether it’s the myths that “no” will make them unlikable, ruin their career, or that someone who says “no” is not a team player or another reason, many people think “no” is bad.

Despite popular opinion, “no” is not negative. Over-commitment through lack of ability to say “no” is negative; it’s harmful to your health and in the end, a person who says yes all the time is not bringing his or her full self to all the commitments that have been made.
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Imagine a child who is never told “no…” that is an automatic winning recipe for raising an insufferable brat! What a horror story for every teacher, classmate, and co-worker that person would grow to infect with his or her undisciplined behavior!
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We all know the “super busy” person who says yes to everything and is a hot mess all the time. He or she is running in circles, always tired, and loses sight of self-identity because his entire purpose is wrapped up in other people’s priorities.
This person is often viewed as the go-to person. “Call Joan… she’s great at this kind of stuff…” This hypothetical “Joan” likely doesn’t know how to say no, she’s over-worked and over-tired. She is lost on the merry-go-round of life and wants off the ride. Saying no would seem so simple, but for her… it’s not. She just can’t bear the thought of people thinking she is disagreeable, or thinking that there would be no one else to take her place if she actually said no.

If you relate to Joan in any way, or anything you’ve read here, give one of these tactics a try:

  • “I’m sorry- I can’t prioritize that over my other commitments right now.”
  • “What a great opportunity! I know you’ll find someone perfect for it, but unfortunately the timing is not right for me.”
  • “I’m working on honoring my schedule, and this would overextend my available time.”
  • “I’d love to, but I have other commitments that would conflict.”
  • “That won’t work for me right now, but I’ll let you know if anything changes.”
  • “I’ve been spread pretty thin recently, so I need to sit this one out. .”
  • “That’s not something I can do now, but let me know next time something comes up.”
  • “I understand you need this, but it’s not something I can accommodate.”
  • “I don’t feel like I’m the best person for this at the moment.”

100% of those statements are positive. None of them actually used the word “no.” All of them expressed kindness, and a declination of ability to move forward.

Play with “no” – all kinds of “no” statements – and get comfy with it. It’s like that old sweatshirt you never want to get rid of. It was good when it was new, but now it’s broken in and is an old friend. “No” wants to be your friend. He’s waiting there to make your life a better place for you to live.

I’d love to hear your adventures in “no” – leave a comment here or message me: jane@gildcoaching.com.

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