Many years ago I read a little booklet called How to Say ‘No’ Without Feeling Guilty. At the time I was a real people-pleaser who tended to say ‘Yes’ to everything, even to my own detriment (and my family’s!). I learned that ‘No’ is actually a very positive word. It enables you to say ‘Yes’ to other things that may be more important. When you always say ‘Yes’ to everything, by default you are also saying ‘No’ to other things, whether you realise it or not.
The truth is that none of us can do everything. We have to make choices. We have to be selective. We must know our priorities and focus our primary time on those important things. So I had to learn to say a nice ‘No’. Here are a few examples:
- "Thank you so much for the invitation to speak at your church. I would love to do so but unfortunately, I already have a full schedule for the rest of this year and therefore I will have to decline. Maybe we could look at some time next year or else I could recommend someone else to you."
- "Thank you for inviting me to your party. I’d love to come but I already have most nights out that week and so will need to spend time with my family. I hope the night goes really well."
- "Thank you so much for asking me to conduct your wedding. I love to do weddings but unfortunately, most weekends are already extremely busy for me due to my other church commitments, so I’ll have to decline. Can I help you find someone else to conduct your wedding?"
- "I’m sorry, I won’t be able to see you this week. Is there someone else I could recommend you to or is there a resource I could suggest to help you with your question?"
- "I’m sorry, I don’t do personal counseling, as that is not my main area of expertise. However, we have an excellent team of qualified counselors at our community centre who would be able to help you. Can I give you a contact number to call?"
It can be a bit hard to say things like this when you first start. In fact, it can take some courage. But you’ll find that ‘No’ is a very positive word, once you get used to saying it. It’s a freeing word. I’m sure we’d all agree that there’s nothing worse than saying ‘Yes’ to too many things, then regretting having to follow through on our commitments (or should I say ‘over-commitments’!).
Of course, there will always be emergency situations that we may not be able to say ‘No’ to for various reasons. In those situations, we just need to do what needs to be done. But overall, our lives can be more enjoyable and more stress-free if we learn to say ‘No’ to things that may be good in and of themselves, but will pull us away from more important things.
When saying ‘No’, I always endeavour to be nice and I also try to think of alternatives to help the person achieve their goal. I can’t do it all myself. After all, I’m not Superman … nor are you! Remember, even Jesus set boundaries. At times he dismissed the crowd or went to a quiet place with just his disciples or went off by himself to pray. Yes, he made time to be available to meet people’s needs BUT he also knew how to say ‘No’ at the appropriate time, so he could say ‘Yes’ to what was most important.
Said any nice ‘No’s’ lately?