Saying no is one of the hardest skills to learn that I mentioned in one of my previous posts. Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, once said, “The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes,” which sums up the challenge to many. I thought to continue with this “saying no” topic and share my thoughts. We will explore the reasons why it’s so hard to say no, as well as tips to overcome it!
Why it’s so hard to say no
You are taught so
As I was growing up, I was always taught to be kind, nice, and help others whenever I could. It was considered rude and inconsiderate to say no. Resonate with my upbringing experience? It took me a while in my adulthood to unlearn what I had been taught and realized that being kind and nice doesn’t have to equate to say yes all the time
You care about what others think of you
It could be intimidating to say no, because you want people to like you; whether it’s your friends, colleagues or bosses. You are afraid that “saying no” not only projects an unkind image to others but you might also hurt others’ feelings.
You are worried about missing out
How many of you say yes because you are worried that saying no may jeopardize your future promotions, raises or being in the inner circle? However, in reality, has saying yes actually got you the promotion you have been secretly wanting?
You want to belong
You simply want to be part of the community and have a sense of belonging. And you don’t want to disappoint but want to be seen as helpful. You believe by saying yes will help you elevate the relationship and trust with others.
You genuinely want to help
Simply put, you feel the urge to offer your sincere and genuine help to others.
Tips on how to say no
Knowing it is okay to say no
You need to unlearn what you have been taught. Saying no is okay, it is not rude to do so, nor does it turn you into a selfish person. When you have healthy boundaries and take care of yourself, it’s actually an admirable action and people will respect and appreciate it.
Evaluate the request and understand your commitment
When you buy a house or make a financial investment, I assume you do your research and look for more information to help you make a sound decision, don’t you?
Learning more details about others’ requests of you, understanding the commitment and deadline, and evaluating how such commitment will affect the priorities in your life are crucial and fair. After all, when you say yes to any requests, you commit to invest your limited and precious time and energy.
It has nothing to do with the person asking, so focus on the request
Nothing personal, but simply consider if you have the bandwidth to take on the extra request. Can you afford to do it now and how will the additional task compromise or jeopardize your other to-dos? How will that impact your state of mind and condition, and how well can you deliver the result?
When you focus on the request, you objectively assess your capacity and the requirement of the request, which helps you make a better decision for yourself and avoid saying yes out of personal biases or to make people happy.
Practice, practice and practice – be direct, clear, assertive and polite
According to the American Psychological Association, “deliberate practice occurs when an individual intentionally repeats an activity in order to improve performance.” Progress occurs by doing, understanding what works and what doesn’t work, course correcting and doing again.
Here are some ways you can say no to others with clarity and humanity:
I am honored but I can’t
I am booked into something
My plate is full, and I can’t right now
This isn’t the answer you were hoping for, but I can’t
I wish I could
I am afraid that I can’t
Unfortunately, I will need to pass on this
Thank you, but that’s not going to work for me
You practice all the time, with or without knowing, and your brain is always absorbing and learning. Practice saying no by yourself or with a friend, which will make you feel a whole lot more comfortable when you are in a situation to say no. After all, “practice makes perfect.”
Offer an alternative
Offering an alternative could possibly provide a win-win situation for both parties. Maybe you are really interested in the request but just don’t have the bandwidth to take it on right away. If that’s the case, you can always tell the person if they could wait and check back with you again, and be sure to give them a specific time frame to check back. Or if you don’t feel like the right person for the request, propose someone whom you think may be a better fit for the need.
Sometimes, it’s better to take your time to respond
When you feel pressured to say yes, ask for some time to respond. By doing so, you give yourself time to evaluate the request, your priority and the requirement and commitment, should you decide to take on the request.
You can ask for more time by saying “let me check with my husband/team to see if I am available,” “let me think about it and I will get back to you by date/time,” or “I will have to check my schedule and let you know by date/time.”
Who knows you well and can unbiasedly see how tired or stressed you are? Who can listen to you without judgment when you experience a tough time? Who is willing and available for you to practice your skills of saying no? Find your support person or group who is committed to your well-being!
Warren Buffett said, “We need to learn the slow yes and the quick no.” Learning how to say no isn’t easy but is crucial to live a more balanced life and avoid possible burnout in life. If you need support of taking control of your life, learning how to say no and resist the temptation to say yes all the time, schedule your call with us today!
About Faye Weng
Your Online Life and Career Coach
Faye Weng is an expert life and career coach who works with clients to take back control of their lives by rediscovering their passions, living/working with a clear purpose, and becoming people who can positively impact the communities around them. As your life and career coach, Faye will help you minimize noises and distractions, focus your effort and attention on the right things, execute a clear plan of action, and celebrate alongside of you when each milestone is reached. Click here to book a complimentary session.