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YES, You Can Say NO and Still be Nice

Here's How I Finally Learned to Stop Saying Yes to Everyone

People ask me all the time, “Beth, do you ever sleep?”

How do you get so much done?”

“Do you run on batteries?”

The truth is that I do sleep, a good eight hours and EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. This has not always been true for me, though. There was a time in my life when I slept less than four hours per night, and some nights I didn’t go to bed at all. I was able to get away with that for all of my twenties and most of my thirties, but eventually, my body said NO MORE and I had to learn some new habits. Today I’m much healthier, happier and more successful in both life and business. I still accomplish a lot, though. In fact, I have more than five big projects happening right now. The reason I am more effective and productive now is that I’ve learned how to say NO to the activities and people that drain my time and energy. You can do this too. Saying “NO” is not a habit that comes to me naturally, friends. If I can learn to do this, you can, too.

Here are six easy tips to help you transition into the new habit of saying “NO” to others so that you can say yes to your family, health, business, goals, success, and prosperity.

I wish I could

Saying, “I wish I could” is a way to say no without actually saying the word no. It’s also really hard for an aggressive person to argue with a statement like this:

“I wish I could, Susan, but I’m working on an important project and my schedule is already over-booked.”

Thank you for thinking of me

This is a gracious and firm way of letting others know that you’re not available. Try this:

“Thank you for thinking of me, Rick. I’m booked solid right now and cannot take on any new commitments.”

Say YES

Saying yes is a great option, especially when it is to your family or co-workers that you want to help and support. However, if you have friends, family, colleagues or direct reports that are taking advantage of you, here is a kind way to set some realistic boundaries:

“YES, I can help you with that. I have to finish this report and make three phone calls. (look at your watch) Can you come back at 4 pm?”

or

“YES, of course, I’m glad to help. Tell me, what solutions have you already tried?”

Answer: Nothing

You: Feign surprise

“Hmmm, can you think of some possible solutions? Tell you what, why don’t you think it over and (look at calendar or watch) and bring me your ideas first thing in the morning?”

Make an alternative suggestion

Offering another option is a way to step into leadership and begin to help others show or practice their skills.

“I’m not the best person for that role, Jill. I recommend that you ask Bob. I know he is interested in gaining some leadership experience and he has more technical expertise than me.”

or

“I’m not able to volunteer for the awards committee this year, Robin, but you might try Lisa. She is new to the community and looking for ways to get involved.”

The compliment technique

Once you’ve practiced the strategies above, saying no will become much easier. Then you can move on to more advanced techniques, like the compliment:

“I admire the work you are doing. You’re making an impact in our community. I’m not able to help, but I wish you tremendous success, Don.”

Extra tips

Don’t feel the need to apologize or over-explain. I notice that women often do that and it’s not necessary.

For example, instead of saying this:

“Janice, I am really really sorry that I cannot attend your fundraiser. You see, I will be out of town the week before because we are traveling to Chicago for a conference for work and the day we come back I have to get all the kids to the dentist for back to school, plus we are putting Rover into that new doggie daycare that just opened up downtown, and you know we’ve never left him before, usually we take him to mom and dad’s, but since mom had that tough diagnosis of emphysema…”

Try saying this:

The fundraiser sounds great, Janice. I wish I could be there.”

😉

Learning to say no will take some practice. Remember, you have been saying yes to everyone BUT yourself for years. Understand that it may take you a while to change this habit. But keep trying, and soon you’ll find yourself back in control of your calendar and your life.

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