I hate to say no.
It feels like I’m letting people down. Like someone suddenly put me on the spot and asked me, in front of the whole world, how much I care for them. And if I say, “no, sorry, I can’t,” everyone will know I don’t love them enough to help them. And then they won’t love me.
Do you ever feel like that?
And so, I say yes. And then resent it.
Like last month, when a dear friend asked me to help her with her blog. I was behind with work and wanted to spend the day home to catch up but when she called, I said, “yes, sure” and jumped on the tube to go to her place.
It didn’t take too long. We managed to find the problem pretty quickly and then we had a good chat in front of a warm cup of tea. But… for all the time I was there, I couldn’t stop wishing I were at home catching up on my work.
But when you say yes to something, you say no to something else. And when that something else is your dream, self-care and time for the things that really matter to you, you end up becoming easily irritated, stressed out and resenting the very people you’re trying to help!
I’m not saying you should say no to everything and everyone. It’s good to help people – when you can. It’s only when helping and taking care of others is all you do, to the point that you don’t have any time to chase your goals and dreams, that it becomes a problem.
That’s when you know you need to utter the dreaded 2 letter word “NO”. Here are a few helpful tips to help you say no so you can do more of the things you really want to do and less of the things other people want you to do:
Listen To Your Intuition
You know that tinge of hesitation you feel when someone asks you something? Listen to it. It’s your gut telling you that something’s wrong. Maybe the opportunity isn’t that enticing. Maybe it is but you know in your heart of hearts that you don’t have the time to fully dedicate to it. Maybe you want to help for the wrong reasons, like getting someone to like you.
But when you really want to do something? You feel butterflies in your stomach. You get a twinkle in your eye. Your whole self-lights up.
If it’s not a resounding yes from the start, it’s a no.
Related: How To Know When To Quit Or Commit
What Are You Giving Up?
I said it before and I’ll say it again: when you say yes to something, you say no to something else. We all want to do all the things but the truth is that we only have 24 hours in a day. And if you’re spending all your waking hours fulfilling other people’s agendas, you’ll get to the end of the day burned down, stressed out and wondering when the heck is your turn.
So, next time someone asks you to do something, think about what you’re giving up for it. Maybe it means postponing work on your side hustle. Or staying up till the wee hours in the morning. Can you fulfill the other person’s request without taking time away from your goals and self-care? If you can’t, say no.
Say It Later
Did you ever say yes to something you really didn’t want to do because you didn’t have the heart to say no to their face? We’ve all been here. Saying no in the moment is hard. So say it later. Tell the person that you need to check your schedule before answering and ask them for their email or phone number so you can follow up with them later in the day.
This makes it easier to properly consider their request and come up with a polite reply should you decide to refuse. And don’t feel bad. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask for more time. You’re a busy person and no one should expect you to be at their beck and call. If they do, they clearly don’t have your best interests at heart.
You Don’t Need To Explain But… Be Polite
Hands up if you’ve ever agreed to do something because you couldn’t think of a good excuse to get out of it. Or maybe you gave a good reason but the other person still tried to convince you. “If you’re working towards a major deadline this week and can’t help me, what about next week?,” they’ll say to try and get you to agree.
Here’s the deal: when you give people a reason for saying no, most of them will slightly change their request so as to invalidate your excuse. Remember, they need you to say yes and do something for them so they have more time for the things they want to do.
So how do you get out of it? You can’t simply say “NO”. That’s rude. So thank them for their request and tell them you can’t agree to it. That’s all. If you really want to give a reason, keep it generic. Here are a few examples:
“Thank you for thinking of me but I’m not able to accept given my other commitments.”
“I’m honoured you thought of me but I’m not taking any requests for _____ at this time.”
“Thank you for your kind offer but I’m going to pass on this one.”
That’s all you need.
Offer An Alternative
Just because you’re not able to fulfill someone’s request, it doesn’t mean you aren’t able to help them. Just give them an alternative. For example, these days I take on freelance clients only when their projects really interest me. If they don’t, I redirect them to one of my freelance friends who I know are looking for work. Or if a friend wants to meet me at a pub (I hate loud places and don’t drink alcohol), I ask them if we could meet at a cafe instead.
Here are a few scripts you can use when you want to soften the blow and offer people an alternative:
“I have to pass on this opportunity because my schedule is completely full right now and I wouldn’t be able to give it the attention it deserves. However, I’d be happy to refer you to another freelancer who can best suit your needs. I recommend [name].”
“Thank you for thinking of me. I’m not able to _______ but I can ______. Would you be open to this?”
“I’d rather not meet ______. Can we ______, instead?”
“I don’t have time to grab a coffee unless we make it an official business meeting. My hourly charge for a consultation is XYZ. Are you interested in this?”
Over to you, now. How do you say no to the things you don’t want to do and, more importantly, how are you using the time you gained back? Share your story in the comments below.