Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m living in a giant pool, constantly treading water. You could say, I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. It seems I need to practice the art of saying “NO”.
Some of you, who are around the same age, may remember that old TV commercial, with the woman who sang about bringing home the bacon….and, frying it up it the pan….oh, and never letting him (whoever him was) forget he’s a man. Basically, they were telling us women that we could do everything and anything. We set out to build careers, families, friendships, and livelihoods. We juggled everything, and always took on more. We learned to say “Yes, I can have and do it all!”. To say “No” would have made us look weak. As empowered women, the last thing we wanted was to look soft and outdated.
The downside to saying “yes” all the time is you eventually wear yourself down. Typically, this will start to manifest itself in physical illness. I believe the surge of autoimmune disease diagnoses is partially a result of all this “yes” dominance. By saying “yes” to everything, we’ve created so much pressure and stress for ourselves. Eventually, something has got to give.
Now, I am in no way an expert in the art of saying “no”. I’m pretty much what you could call a work in progress. Slowly, I’m learning how to analyze whether a request deserves a “yes” or a “no”. And, I call it an art because most often we cannot blurt out a quick “no”. We have to carefully determine what we can fit into our already busy lives.
How to determine if you should accept or deny a request:
- If you accept this request, will it help you as well? For example, if your boss asks you to work on a weekend, and you accept, will it help to further your career?
- If you decline the request, will it hurt you in any way? For example, take the instance above, and decline. Will you lose your job or lose a promotion?
- Do you have too much on your plate already? For example, if your Saturday is filled with shuttling the kids around, and someone asks you to run an errand for them, would you have to rearrange your whole schedule to help them?
- Can you negotiate the request? For example, you may not be able to run the errand above on Saturday, but you could fit it in on Sunday. Would that work for the person?
And, that’s it. If you make the process too complicated, it’ll take too long to formulate an answer. Basically, if it won’t hurt you to say “no”, or if you already have too much on your plate, you say “no”. If the request will help you greatly, will hurt you if you decline, or you can negotiate it, you may want to say “yes”. But, the choice is still yours to make.
How to gracefully tell someone “No”:
- Understand that the person making the request probably has no idea how busy you already are. Don’t expect people to know your schedule. Simply explaining that your plate is full at this time is usually enough for people to understand. You don’t need to give them an itemized list of the things you’re doing. It’s just easy to say, “I would love to help you; but, I barely have time to do everything in my schedule as it is. Perhaps, I could help you at another time.”
- Never try to negotiate with children or fur-babies. A simple, yet firm “No” is best. LOL!
- If it’s a request that you just don’t want to do…..ever, it’s best to be up front and say, “No, I’m sorry. I can’’t do it.”, and smile. Most of the time we feel the need to explain; but, that’s not necessary. They’re asking for your time, service, space, or whatever. If giving them what they ask does not bring you joy, you owe no explanation.
Obviously, saying “no” to some people is going to be easier than saying it to others. Family is notoriously hard to decline. But, like I constantly tell my husband, if something happens to you, or you get too sick to help others, what’s going to happen to them then. You’re no good to anyone, including yourself, if you’re overstressed, exhausted, and spread too thin. Sometimes, you just need to practice the art of saying “No”.
As always, I wish you good health……and, good food!