Not long ago, I was asked to help with an upcoming event. My response was a quick and resounding "No". The speed at which I delivered this reply actually surprised me. My style in years past was to hedge and/or apologize. But time and experience have taught me a few things, and it's gotten easier to say no. I felt badly about turning this opportunity down, but saying no was the right choice.
This got me thinking - what causes us to say yes when we should say no?
- We feel guilty.
- We want the approval of others.
- We think it'll further our cause or career.
- We want to help family, friends, community, etc.
- We're afraid we're missing out on important opportunities.
- We think we can handle it, not fully grasping the effects of another commitment.
Why is it important to say no? Because it offers opportunities to properly align our priorities and life. If we don't, it will affect our quality of life, spiritual growth, relationships, health, and work in a negative way. Many of us are too busy, not allowing enough margins or down time. When we set boundaries by saying no, we open the door to time and possibilities - to think, pray, brainstorm, learn, daydream, recharge, do quality work, and build lasting relationships. More time, less stress - the benefits are obvious.
Saying no sounds good in theory, but what can we do to put it into practice and see resulting benefits? Here are a few things that help me.
What are the non-negotiable, must-do commitments? It helps to first fill the schedule with people, tasks, and items that reflect our beliefs and what's most important to us.
Don't Respond Immediately
While it's courteous to reply to the request, we don't owe anyone an immediate answer. Ever. And if they expect one, that's their problem. Take time to think on it, pray about it, and consider all the angles.
Don’t Worry About What People Think
It’s not your job to fix what others think about you. Some will agree with you, some will disagree. You can’t please everyone. So there’s no sense in trying.
“Whatever you do, whatever you say, people will judge you either fairly or harshly. Don’t sweat this small thing. Don’t let it ruin your day. If you’re basing your decision whether to say yes or to say no on the fact that you care about what other people will say, stop. It’s not worth all the trouble.”
You know what? Ms. Laroya is right. It’s not worth stressing over saying no.
We can still care about people, but don’t have to be entangled in their opinions about us and their expectations from us.
Think About the Consequences
Consider how you'll feel once you commit to this new thing. Do you imagine feeling overwhelmed, annoyed, stressed out, and otherwise agitated? Or is this a good fit, something you feel led to do? Is it a long or short-term commitment? How will it affect your life and family? If it doesn’t feel right, or you just aren’t sure, say no. It's always better to feel peace versus angst about a decision.
Find Your Good Balance
Sure, there will be busier times, extra favors or necessary tasks for others, interruptions, and emergencies that arise that complicate and clog your days. But what's your bottom line? What has God placed you on this earth to do? Use that as a guide and aim overall for the structure that is the best fit for your life’s vision, your family, faith, health, and other priorities.
There often are many layers to and criteria for setting boundaries. Sometimes it’s hard to assess the situation and requests from your own perspective. Don’t be afraid to ask someone you trust, who knows you well, for advice and perspective regarding requests from others. Often they can lend an outside perspective that aids in our decision to say yes or no.
Don’t be swayed by emotions or manipulation from the person requesting something of you. This isn’t always the case, but it does happen and you cannot allow it to cloud your vision.
Catherine at The Blissful Mind has this to say,
“Don’t let people talk you into or out of things. You can still be kind yet firm at the same time. Your friends might be bummed that you won’t make it to the party, but they should be able to get over it and respect your decision.”
If you don't define your parameters and priorities, someone else may do it for you. Defend your space. Allow yourself grace. And guard your time. It's a precious commodity and once it's gone, that's it. You don't get it back.
Will saying yes cause you to have regrets over doing it, or not having done something else?
Consider how you want to spend the remainder of your life. With whom do you want to spend it? Go and live life. A real one.
Think about it. When you do say no, it gives you the ability to say yes at just the right time.
I like what Michael Hyatt says in his post entitled, 5 Reasons You Need to Get Better at Saying No. He encourages us to “Say No for a Better Yes.” He goes on to say,
“It turns out there are very good reasons for flexing your no muscle. If you struggle with this, I think these five reasons might help you as well...If I don’t say no,
- Other peoples’ priorities will take precedence over ours.
- Mere acquaintances—people we barely know! —will crowd out time with family and close friends.
- We will not have the time we need for rest and recovery.
- We will end up frustrated and stressed.
- We won’t be able to say yes to the really important things.”
I don’t know about you, but I think this is a great list. It lends the right criteria and perspective when it comes to saying no.
So go ahead, say no. Hold fast to your priorities. That “no” might lead to the best “yes” you’ll ever say.
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