Do You Know How To Say No?
Sometimes we have a hard time knowing when and how to say no. I think this is especially true for baby boomer women. We’ve trained all of our lives on how to take care of others. We’re the one that others turn to, rely on, and always ask help from. And that’s great if we help occasionally, but not great when we’re putting others’ needs ahead of our own… which is what usually happens. But this month, we need to learn how to disappoint others by learning how to say no to overcommitment!
And this chapter in Cheryl Richardson’s book The Art of Extreme Self-Care is going to be a difficult one for us. It’s called Let Me Disappoint You. Now I know that’s not what I want to do for others. And I’m pretty sure that you don’t want to do it either. But why? Is it because we are afraid to disappoint others? Or is it because we’re afraid of what they might think about us or say about us?
Cheryl says that common reasons why we have trouble saying no include: feeling guilty and disappointing others when we do say no, not having the language to say no with grace, saying yes to avoid conflict, and wanting people to like us. Because, let’s be honest, once we start saying no people will be disappointed or even angry and we need to learn to be ok with that.
Guidelines On Saying No
Buy some time: Instead of saying yes, say “let me think about it.” You can also say, “Let me check with someone (spouse, parents, children, etc.) before I commit.” Here Cheryl recommends putting some time in between you and making a decision, which allows you to determine if you really want to assist and how it’s going to impact you.
Do a gut check: Now that you’ve got some time in which to make the decision, it’s time to look at its impact on your life. It gives you time to step away from worrying about the other person and gives you time to look at your own needs. You may decide that this is actually something you want to help with but you’ve learned how to take the time to look at how it will impact your life and your plans for yourself before saying yes.
Tell the truth directly and with grace: According to Cheryl, there are three steps to follow in order to turn someone down with grace. First, start by being honest about how you feel without overexplaining. For example, you can say, “I feel bad that I’m not able to help with X but I need to…” You can say you need to focus your time on a work project that has an upcoming deadline, or that you’re overcommitted and need to take a break.
Ask how you can support: This is something that you only do if you have to back out of a commitment that you’ve already made. You feel responsible for the person or the situation that you’re in. For example, telling a committee that you need to leave while they’re working on a major project or when you need to tell a friend that you need to back out of something that you’ve already committed to doing. You can offer to help them find a replacement, etc.
We must learn how to break the pattern in order to better take care of ourselves. Use this link to print The calendar of No. You might find it a little repetitive but it’s our opportunity to practice the art of saying no. It will include creating go to talk-tracks to use in certain situations as well as creating a list of those things you’ve missed out on because you were helping someone else. And we’ll include “me” time so you can actually do things for yourself rather than for someone else. (**Please note that I don’t have the power to determine on what exact day of the month someone will ask you to help them. This month, please use the calendar as a guideline for the day when someone does ask.)
Another resource that you might find helpful is Cheryl’s book Stand Up for Your Life which shows you how to make the choices that honor your needs and values.