One More Reason To Say “No”

posted by Andrea | 08/19/2016
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say no

A few weeks ago, a neighbor friend asked to borrow something of ours. We weren’t using it, so I offered to bring it over later that day. When I dropped it off, she thanked me and said, “I always ask you first because I know you’ll actually say ‘no’ if you can’t help me out.”

As I was thinking about what she said, I realized there are a handful of people in my life that I don’t hesitate to ask for favors from because I know that even if they really want to help me, they will say ‘no’ if they can’t. They will not inconvenience themselves or completely rearrange their schedule just to help me, and they won’t grudgingly say “yes” only to resent me for asking later on.

I never feel bad asking these people for help because I know my request won’t make them stress out about trying to please me or accommodate me even though it doesn’t work for them.

I also have a mental list of VERY kind and genuine friends and family members who I rarely ask for help because I know they will almost always say “yes” even if they really don’t have the time, energy, or resources to help me at that time. Although their intentions are almost always good, it ends up causing more hassle and stress (for both of us) and even though they might not admit it, I think they sometimes resent me asking for help in the first place. All of this ends with me feeling badly for inconveniencing them — when they could have (and should have) said no in the first place.

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Of course, there are always situations when our help might be needed whether we have the time and energy to help or not — specifically within our immediate families and with close friends. That’s just what we do — we help out when help is needed, even if it’s not 100% convenient for us at the time.

However, there are many other situations when it might be a lot more helpful to simply say “sorry, I can’t help you right now” instead of agreeing to something you don’t really want to do .

As I mentioned a couple months ago, saying “no” is often a sign of respect — both for your own time and for the other person’s time… and I think that statement holds true for the examples in this post as well.

My friend who asked for my help felt confident asking me because she knew I respected my own time (and her opinion of me) enough to say ‘no’ if I couldn’t help her. And I often choose not to ask certain people for help because I feel they don’t respect their own time enough to actually say ‘no’ if they are too busy.

It’s one thing to be a very helpful and generous person… it’s another thing to be a push-over who always says ‘yes’ to everyone and every request. 

If you are the push-over type, you probably know that about yourself and you probably don’t like it. Although it might be terribly difficult for you to say ‘no’, I promise that it does get easier with a little practice 🙂

And it might be a bit easier for you to practice saying ‘no’ if you consider the fact that, in the long-run, your friends and family members might respect you and value your opinions MORE if you say ‘no’ when you actually can’t help them out.

This does not mean you should suddenly start saying no to everyone and anyone’s request for your help, time, talents, etc. but it IS something to think about when you’re feeling bad because you just can’t squeeze one more thing into your schedule.

And speaking of schedules… if you simply cannot muster up the courage to say ‘no’ to someone’s face, just tell them you need to check your schedule first, and then email your ‘no’ response! 

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Again, I don’t want anyone to think that I’m against helping friends, family members, neighbors, coworkers, or even complete strangers — that’s not the point of this post. Rather, I want to note that if we say ‘no’ when we can’t help and reserve our ‘yeses’ for when we can actually help, those yeses will be A LOT more helpful than if we say ‘yes’ to every single request without considering our own personal needs.

Although I’m generally a “quantity over quality” type of gal, I’d rather offer fewer QUALITY yeses than unlimited quantities of guilt-ridden yeses because I’m too shy or nervous to say ‘no’ and potentially disappoint someone in my life.

Was there ever a time when you said ‘yes’ and should have said ‘no’?

How did you feel? Have you done anything to make it easier to say ‘no’?

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12 comments

  1. Nic

    08/20/2016

    I do something like this for charity giving. I have a couple of charities to whom I donate money and time every month. This way I can be effective in my giving and the energy involved is significant and so respectful to those causes. I say no to almost all other charity giving as dropping a few coins in tin is to me too easy and I’m not being mindful in what I’m doing however much I may sympathise with their cause. I make some exceptions such as emergency appeals but overall I’d rather help in a way that has substance, and that means committing time as well as money, than spread the same in tiny amounts with only a minutes thought.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for sharing Nic — I like your system!

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  2. Shan

    08/20/2016

    Dear Andrea, I’m a grandmother and love your blog! Inspired by the quiet book Dave’s Mom made for Nora, I asked a friend to help me make one for my granddaughter. It turned out great! I’m definitely old enough to be your mother but saying “no” has been a huge struggle my whole life, but I’m finally learning. I really like the sound of “I think I’m going to pass.” I will practice saying that 🙂 I admire your many wonderful qualities! Keep up your great work and God bless!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Shan! We LOVE the book Dave’s mom made for the kids — I’m glad you got one for your granddaughter too!

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  3. Mary Ann

    08/19/2016

    I am better at saying ‘no’ than I used to be. If I know I will not be able to grant their request, I say ‘no’ right away instead of taking time to think it over and feel guilted into doing something I really don’t want or won’t be able to do. If I think I may be able to do something or really don’t know if I can, I ask for some time to think it over before saying ‘yes’. I don’t do well with spur-of-the-moment decisions so in the past, I’d say ‘yes’ right away because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings then regret my decision. But saying ‘no’ right away for certain things has really helped me.

    I used to babysit a friend’s children on occasion–I love her and her children. She is a more persistent personality and early on in our friendship, she asked me to help her in a specific situation that I just didn’t think I could do. The only reason I would’ve said ‘yes’ was to avoid saying ‘no’! So as hard as it was, I said, ‘no’. I felt awful but it really was the best decision for me at the time. Later she told me that when I told her ‘no’, her respect for me grew and she felt like I was someone who would be totally honest with her instead of just saying something she wanted to hear. Our friendship grew because of this.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, it sounds like you had a similar situation with your friend as I did with mine.
    This might sound crazy, but usually, when I meet someone new (like a new neighbor or new mom friend who I will most likely see regularly) I will somehow make a point to tell them “please ask if you need help for anything, I will always say ‘no’ if I can’t do it so you will not inconvenience me”. I think this puts them at ease and makes me more approachable.

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  4. kathy w

    08/19/2016

    I really like this post. I also have told people no in the past, family and friends and it’s eye opening to see the one who get upset. They can’t understand why I would tell them no because
    we are friends or family. You can certainly see who values your time and who just thinks you should always help when they ask. Thanks for the reinforcement.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    You’re welcome kathy! And yes, it’s always interesting to see who gets the most upset when we say ‘no’. I think one of my biggest pet peeves EVER is when people take advantage of my time — either by being late and keeping me waiting, expecting that I will always say ‘yes’ when they need something, or assuming I don’t have anything better to do than whatever it is that THEY want me to do. So aggravating!

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  5. Eileen

    08/19/2016

    My Mom and my Aunt (my Dad’s sister) were very good friends. They used to do something similar. When one wanted to invite the other to some optional thing, they would sometimes say something like “do you want to shopping with me at xyz mall? Up to you, I couldn’t care less “. LOL

    It sounds awful but it was their sort of joking way of saying “I’m doing this, would you like to come — but you won’t hurt my feelings if you say no”. Just more to the point.

    I’ve come to do the same thing with close friends and family. It’s a nod to them and makes me laugh every time.

    I’ve learned to say “I think I’m going to pass” as my nice way of declining things. I’ve gotten better about that.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I like this — both how you say “I think I’m going to pass” and what your mom and aunt did. We all have the ways that work for us — and as I mentioned in the post, I’m confident people will respect us and our decisions more if we tell the truth and don’t just say ‘yes’ because we feel guilty.

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  6. Debbie

    08/19/2016

    This was a amazing post and I needed this!
    This is a wonderful way to see how to handle these situations.
    I’m a recovering yes person. It only took me to the age of 45 to learn to say no! Lol!
    I hope your younger readers will let this one sink in. Such good content.
    Thanks again for your verity of topics!

    A faithful fan of your blog,
    Debbie 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much Debbie!
    And, as the saying goes, “better late than never”!

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