Say no in the best possible way


Lauree Ostrofsky on real-life monstersDo you say yes when you mean to say no?

Maybe you don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. You’re afraid no one else will do it (or as well as you will). Or there are so many good options for someone else doing it that you can’t choose between them. That last one is especially true for us Wafflers.

Then the inevitable happens. Right after saying yes — or not saying no — you get overwhelmed, exhausted, stretched too thin. Even more requests pile up, and suddenly you just want to hide.

Though hiding works wonders at curing overwhelm, it shouldn’t be the only way to avoid saying yes to things you really don’t want to do.

Instead, there’s a way to say no without uttering the word, and that, with any luck, makes everyone happier in the process.  

Two things.

First, say thank you. When someone asks you to do something, what they are really saying is they care about you. They want to spend time with you. They value your skills and think you’re the best person for the job.  

All good things, right?

Saying thank you gives you a chance to appreciate the person back, and establish a real, lasting connection. When that happens, and no matter how you answer their request, you both will come away feeling seen and heard by each other.  

Second, step back and ask yourself, “What am I saying yes to?”

Because (insert light bulb here): When you say no to something, you’re saying yes to something else. It’s as simple as that.

Rather than obsessing about how people might respond and what you might miss if you say no, consider what you’re making room for. You only have so much time and energy to go around. What’s most important to you?

More time with your family?  

The chance to finish a project you’ve wanted to focus on for a while?

A much-needed and deserved break?

When you know what you’re saying yes to:

  •  The word no might not even come up. Case in point: “Thanks for thinking of me, but I’m putting all my energy toward _______ at the moment. Hope you find someone to help.”
  • You’ll care less about saying no, because you’ll be more excited to dive into what you really want to do.
  • They may help you instead! When someone expresses enthusiasm about what they’re up to, people want to jump in and join them. Be open to the conversation shifting and to receiving more support than you could have imagined.  

Or maybe you’re saying yes to utter honesty. This clip of Phoebe Buffay’s famous line from Friends cracks me up: “I wish I could…but I don’t want to.” (Joey’s hair is priceless, by the way.)

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What helps you say no? Drop me a line at lauree@unstuck.com. I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Lauree Ostrofsky helps people love their lives, work, and each other more every day. She is chief hugger and coach at Simply Leap LLC and the author of SIMPLY LEAP: Seven Lessons on Facing Fear and Enjoying the Crap out of Your Life. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @SimplyLeap.

Want to meet Lauree? During the next month, she’ll be hosting events in Denver, Dallas, Poughkeepsie, and Virginia. Get the details here.

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