Do you find yourself saying yes when what you really want to do is scream “NO”?
If you’re like many people who describe themselves as “people-pleasers”, you may feel compelled to acquiesce to every request that comes along. This can easily leave you feeling over committed and stressed-out with little free time for yourself and your family.
The inability to draw healthy boundaries is exhausting and will take an emotional and physical toll on you. Since many requests for your time and talents come from worthy causes, it’s important to be crystal clear about your priorities. Only then can you determine which activities really deserve your participation. For the rest, you need to have the courage to say no.
Here are five tips to help you avoid burning bridges and damaging relationships when declining requests.
Buy yourself some time. Unless you know this is something you absolutely want to do, delay your response by letting them know you’ll have to check your calendar or that you want to sleep on it. This will give you time to decide if this request is in alignment with your priorities, and if not, you can let them down in an email or by phone, which is often less stressful than declining face to face.
Keep your response simple and short. Sometimes we feel we need to justify why we’re saying no to a request. That’s just our guilt and anxiety getting in the way. People deserve an answer, but they don’t need a long story. Keep your response short, “Thank you, but I have another commitment,” or “I appreciate your asking, but I can’t this time.” Don’t over-apologize and be confident in your response.
Negotiate and compromise. Rather than saying no outright, see if there’s a part of the request you can accommodate and negotiate your level of commitment. If this weekend is bad for you, ask if another weekend works. If you’re asked to chair the fundraising committee at your kid’s school and you don’t have the time, let them know you can bring something for the bake sale instead. People are often just as happy with the compromise and it takes some of the sting out of saying no.
Own your decision. If you hesitate or show any waffling in your answer, you’re inviting push-back. Make sure your tone of voice and body language are all in alignment with your words. Watch out for wringing hands and statements that vocally go up in tone at the end indicating a lack of confidence. You want to communicate in every way that your answer is firm and final.
Experiment with ways to say no. If saying no outright feels harsh, find a gentler and more creative way to decline. You might say, “Unfortunately, I don’t have any more room in my calendar,” “I’m not taking on any new commitments right now” or “I’d rather help out in a different way.” There are many ways to decline a request without saying the word no that maintain the relationship going forward. One phrase that leaves the door open for future interaction and requests is, “Thank you, not at this time.”
It may feel like it’s just easier to say yes to everything, but too often the price you end up paying in higher stress and frustration levels is too great. Learning to say no to requests that don’t support the things that bring you your greatest joy is one of the best gifts you can give yourself and your loved ones.