How To Start Saying No

Ever said yes to something and immediately felt regret? 

Maybe it was to help out a friend when you were already overcommitted, a dinner you had no desire to attend, or a favor at work when you were already at your bandwidth. Maybe it was something bigger like a job offer or life decision, a big purchase.

We tell ourselves we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or that we owed them something, didn’t want to be rude, or miss an opportunity. But what’s the cost? Not taking care of our own needs, time stolen from the things and people that matter most to us, goals, the stress of having to rearrange your entire schedule. Over time, “yes” becomes the habit, the unconscious automatic response. And even when we realize what it costs us, it can still feel hard to say no.

So how do we start saying no without it feeling heavy or stressful

  1. Review Your Personal Values 

What is important to you in life and work? Making a contribution? Being creative? Upholding your integrity? Values are not things we are looking to achieve in life; think of them more like a steering wheel on a boat, bringing you in a certain direction. When weighing the factors of your values and the request, do they align? If not, then politely turn down the request!

             2. Take Into Account the Season You’re In 

When you’re just entering the job force focusing on advancing your career, it’s a very different place energetically than when you are just about to retire. The period where you may have had kids changes when they leave the nest. There are seasons of birth, growth, renewal, grief, and each time, your focus shifts. While a request may align with your values, it may just not be the time for it. Leave space for that. 

              3. Don’t Delay 

Just say no. If you know it’s a no, or you are on the fence, and your gut is saying no – don’t delay. Delaying in moments like that causes you more angst and wastes another person’s time. Oh, and if you tell someone you’ll get back to them, give yourself a deadline! They’ll find someone else if you can’t do it. Promise.

              4. Practice 

If saying yes is reflexive, saying no may feel out of your comfort zone at first. Remember, the more you practice, the easier it gets. Then remind yourself of what you are saying yes to when you say no and get specific. Maybe it’s a night in to actually, truly chill out or time to work on that project or spend time with the ones that matter most. 

While you don’t have to justify your answer to anyone, I get the need to try to explain. Just remember that at the end of the day, you’ll gain respect from yourself and others when you say no. It will also free up the time to say yes to requests that really do light you up! 

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