Our lives are filled with decisions. Big ones, small ones, ones we make without even realizing we made them. From what to eat for lunch to who you want to marry. The ability to make a decision can be both empowering and paralyzing because every time you say YES to something, you are saying NO to something else.
Saying no is often very hard to practice. We hate letting people down or disappointing a friend or co-worker, but we can’t say yes to everything. Finding balance in our lives is key to living well. Saying no is an important skill to acquire in order to maintain healthy relationships and boundaries. Here are a few key guidelines to practice when you have to let someone down.
- Take Time to Listen
When someone asks something of you, the desired reaction may be to put your head down, don’t make eye contact and try to dodge the request. Perhaps you don’t text back or don’t pick up the phone. But one of the best ways to show value to someone is by giving them time. Take time to listen to their request and use your words to validate their request even if it isn’t something you can do. The let-down will be far less harsh when they know you have taken the time to listen to them.
- Provide an Alternative
Instead of thinking about a request in light of what you can’t do, think of what you can do. A friend may invite you to go on a weekend getaway and you know you can’t be away from home for that length of time. But how much time do you have for that friend? Provide another alternative that works with your time and margin. By providing an alternative, you are letting them know that it’s not personal, while also being able to stay in control of your schedule.
- Don’t Make Excuses
When we say no, we often feel like we have to provide a list of disclaimers and reasons. But the truth is, we don’t. Sometimes we don’t have a valid reason for not wanting to do something, so we end up feeling guilty and making things up. Instead, practice simply saying “no.” If someone invites you to something and you just don’t want to go, give yourself permission to say, “I’m sorry I won’t be able to make that event. Thanks so much for the invite.” The plain truth will always stand stronger than a “no” littered with fake excuses and made up justifications.
What can you say no to this week? Give yourself permission to protect your time and schedule in an effort to take care of yourself. When you have the freedom to say no, you are saying no to a life of unnecessary resentment and guilt.