A Post for Anyone Who Struggles to Say ‘No’

posted by Andrea | 02/28/2017
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Saying ‘no’ is rarely ever fun or enjoyable — it’s not something we anxiously anticipate doing (at least I don’t!)

However, I think the whole concept of saying ‘no’ has a bad reputation and is viewed as unnecessarily negative by so many people. It’s like we feel saying ‘no’ is the absolute last resort and requires some sort of excuse and apology to go along with it.

I understand why it’s so difficult to say no — after all, we naturally want to make others happy as often as possible. However, for our own sanity and our own well-being, we do have to say ‘no’ to something (or someone) at some point.

If you are the type of person who struggles to say ‘no’ I hope today’s post will be encouraging for you!

Saying ‘no for now’ does not necessarily mean ‘no forever’.

This was the hardest one for me to grasp — I felt like saying “no” meant I would NEVER EVER do that activity, participate in that committee, or see those people ever again.

Once I realized that I was saying “no” because I had so many responsibilities with my young children at home — and that my young children wouldn’t always be so young and needy, I felt much better saying “not right now, but maybe in a few more years”.

Maybe you too are in a very full season of life and you need to let a few things go… good for you! However, don’t forget that you can always change your mind later and come back to those activities and events once your life slows down again.

There will most likely be another point in your life when you will be able to get back to volunteering, exercising, eating a certain diet, getting back into the corporate world, traveling, spending more time with friends, entertaining, etc.

You might have to say ‘no for now’ but it doesn’t mean ‘no forever’.

Saying ‘no’ to one thing means you are actually saying ‘yes’ to something else.

So often, when we say ‘no’, we ONLY think about what we are saying ‘no’ to — not what we are also saying ‘yes’ to as a result of our ‘no’.

For example, if you say ‘no’ to a girl’s weekend away because you just want to be home, you’re saying ‘yes’ to more relaxation at home, more sleep, less busyness, less expense, more time with your family, etc.

If you say ‘no’ to attending an out-of-town event for extended family you really aren’t that connected to, you’re saying ‘yes’ to less travel, less stress, more down-time to do what YOU want to do, more low-key family time, less rushing.

It’s true that in these 2 examples you might be letting some of your friends or family members down by saying ‘no’, but you are also allowing yourself to say ‘yes’ to so many other things.

When I have a hard decision to make, I try to consider what I’m saying ‘no’ to and what I’m saying ‘yes’ to — and then think about the pros and cons of each option. After doing some thinking, it’s usually fairly clear what decision I should make.

Saying ‘no’ doesn’t make you a bad person.

I was once told that I was lazy because I stepped down from a committee I had volunteered for over the course of several years.

Me… lazy!

I hope that anyone who knows me in real life (and anyone who has read my blog for more than a few months) knows that lazy is not an adjective I would ever use to describe myself. I am a go-getter, I am productive, I am ambitious, I am a hard-work. I am NOT lazy!

I simply know my limits and I’m not going to needlessly stress myself out or work myself to the bone just so I don’t ever disappoint someone else. Sorry!

However, I’m convinced that saying ‘no’ does NOT make me lazy, irresponsible, or a bad person. If anything, I think it shows respect (see next point below).

Saying ‘no’ shows respect.

I’ve already written an entire blog post on this point (read it here)… but I truly do feel that being honest and saying ‘no’ upfront actually shows quite a bit of respect — both for yourself and the person requesting your time or services.

For example, if you say ‘yes’ to help plan an upcoming party at work just because you don’t want to disappoint anyone (and even though you know you won’t be able to make it to the meetings or the party) you will only end up looking extremely incompetent to your fellow employees when you make all sorts of excuses as to why you can’t be at the meetings or do your fair share of the work. It would have been less awkward to simply say ‘no’ upfront and let them find another person to be on their party-planning committee.

Another example — you agree to watch a friend’s children on a day when you’re already busy, and then end up canceling on your friend at the last minute. Not only do you look bad to your friend, but your friend is in a bind now that she needs to find new childcare at the very last-minute. It would have shown so much more respect for your friend if you had simply said you were too busy to watch her children that day the first time she asked you.

Like I mentioned above, saying no right now doesn’t mean you will never help out on a party planning committee at work or that you will never watch your friend’s children ever again, it just means ‘no for now’ because you are too busy this time.

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Of course, I don’t think we should always say ‘no’ all the time — I’m a huge advocate for using our gifts and talents to help our families, friends, churches, schools, workplaces, and communities. But I’m also a huge advocate for knowing our own limits, not pushing too hard, and not causing unnecessary stress and hardship on our lives (and the lives of others around us) just because we’re too afraid or nervous to say ‘no’.

Then next time you feel bad saying ‘no’, just remember — it’s not “no forever”, you’re most likely saying “yes” to lots of other great things, you are not a bad person, and you are showing respect.

See… it’s not that difficult now!

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10 comments

  1. Angela

    03/01/2017

    When I had four little kids and a husband with a very demanding and unpredictable job, I came up with my go-to answer whenever I was asked to be on committees at church or school, or do various other things. I would say “thanks for thinking of me, but right now I don’t commit to anything that takes me away from the kids in the evenings.” I decided I was busy enough with my at-home business and my responsibilities as a mom and wife, so that became my motto. I figured there would be a season later in life when those opportunities would be possible, but at that point, it would have just added stress.

    Fast forward a few years, and those four little kids are all school age now. And I’m even busier now than I thought I was when they were little! Even though we keep their activities to a manageable amount, if each child is in only one activity per season, that keeps us on the go pretty much every night of the week. It’s a good kind of busy, don’t get me wrong, but there’s even less time now for outside commitments, so my standard answer has remained the same. I still say no to anything with evening meetings, such as school PTA and church committees. It simply isn’t worth it to miss their concerts or games for something that’s less important to me. I volunteer my time for PTA events, but will not attend meetings. I teach Sunday school, but I will not go to the committee meeting or be on the council. There will be time for those things when the silence in my house is deafening because the kids have grown up, and I’ll be looking for things to do! : ) (And partially because I hate meetings – I don’t brainstorm well in a group and I feel that there’s a ton of time wasted, which makes me absolutely nuts – not a good use of my time).

    My oldest baby turns 15 in a few weeks, and it really does seem like just yesterday we were sending her off to kindergarten. Now she’ll be learning to drive and looking at colleges. We might have to deal with some negativity or judgement from others, but we should all be confident in our “not right nows”, knowing that we will never regret the time spent with our kids. I’ve found that the haters tend to just be kind of jealous and wishing they could say no too. : )

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I know — I’ve been told it will only get busier and I believe it. However, I also use the phrase “I don’t do anything that requires evening commitments” as my go-to “no” response!

    [Reply]

  2. Karlyn Nance

    02/28/2017

    After reading your article on saying “no,” the next thing that popped up on my computer was an article on Lent. My church has never promoting observing this Christian discipline, so I was interested in learning more about this practice. Here is a quote from the article that ties in so well with your post on saying no: “When we set something aside, whether food or drink that routinely comforts us, nightly television, social media habits, perhaps even a regular social gathering, we create space for something new to grow. Lent isn’t so much about what you give up;rather it’s about what will grow in its place.” Then the article went on to suggest that we ask the Lord to grow something new in the space we have created by setting something aside for the season of Lent. After reading this article, I thought to myself that this is exactly what you were expressing: “Saying ‘no’ to one thing means you are actually saying ‘yes’ to something else.” Here is the link, if anyone wishes to read the entire article I referenced: http://kellyminter.com/join-me-in-preparing-for-easter/

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    This is so great Karlyn! Thanks for sharing the link to that website — I read that article and then got hooked with several of her other posts! I’m now following Kelly on Facebook too 🙂

    [Reply]

  3. Marisa

    02/28/2017

    My husband reminds me that, in order for a YES to be meaningful, there has to be a very real possibility of a NO. So sometimes there will be NOs. It’s a concept that is sometimes hard to accept, but is true.

    When it comes to this, my role model is my granddaddy. He never seemed to feel guilty about saying NO. No apologies, no explanations, no hesitancy, no hedging. Just “No.” End of sentence. When I was a child, it always took me by surprise, but I could appreciate it. It was clear and left no room for argument or discussion.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    exactly! I totally agree with your husband on this topic!

    [Reply]

  4. Ruth

    02/28/2017

    The person who called you lazy…..the nerve!
    Selfish emotional manipulation at its best.

    The whole saying no shows respect is something I’ve come to understand the past few years and it is incredibly freeing. I say no up front and the best part? I don’t waste time being upset, angry, stressed, figuring out an excuse, or fabricating a lie to get out of it.

    That was the worst, the wasted time I spent being angry at myself! LOL

    The year before I was start homeschooling high school with my oldest, I had a Come to Jesus moment. I knew my goal was to enjoy my remaining years with her at home and to get her into a top-notch college. This was going to take Olympic level time commitment from me.
    I knew that no one else cared about her education the way I did, so I cut everything out and focused only on my goals.

    She is now a sophomore at an ivy-league school and literally living out all the dreams I had for her.
    No committee or women’s group or party coordinating could have made me or my family as happy as we are with how our family’s life is going!
    Have a great day and I will def be sharing this post!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, I agree about the time wasted trying to get out of commitments and feeling angry with ourselves (I may have experience with that as well!)
    Also, congrats on your daughter’s success — that’s fabulous!

    [Reply]

  5. Deni

    02/28/2017

    Thank you Andrea, I needed this post!!! My Mother tries to guilt me into doing things that I really don’t want to do, and I need to be more assertive up front.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — a whole new definition of “mom guilt” 🙂

    [Reply]