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Strategies for Saying No

‘Tis the season for saying “yes” and saying it so often that our holidays are a daze and we trade cheer for exhaustion. Not only do we try to pack everything in, many of us feel an immense amount of guilt about saying “no” and worry about what others will think of us when we opt out of an invitation or decline the request for a favor. As difficult as it is, sometimes saying “no” is the right thing to do.

Saying “no” doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, that you’re selfish or being rude, but saying “yes” when you’d rather not do something can leave you feeling stressed, tired and resentful. That one simple word—NO—can actually build confidence, create healthy boundaries and instill a better understanding of your own value. This season and beyond, bow out with grace and without remorse.
Guidelines for when it makes sense to say “no”:

  • When you’re short on time. Life is a balancing act; we’re constantly figuring out what we can fit in and where. If you’re offered a promotion that takes too much time away from family life, it might be right to turn it down. If your weekends are packed with responsibilities, it’s OK to decline a distant relative’s party. If volunteering is monopolizing your time, give yourself to make a financial contribution instead.
  • When you don’t have the cash. Never hesitate to say “no” to things that cost money you don’t have or that you’d rather not spend. Whether it’s contributing to a group gift or loaning someone else money, don’t do it if you can’t (or don’t want to!) Your first responsibility is to your own healthy financial situation and you should never feel guilty about that.

  • When you don’t want to do something. For whatever reason, sometimes requests just don’t feel right, leaving you feeling like you simply want to say “no” and that’s OK. If loaning your car doesn’t sit well or leaves you overly concerned, follow your gut. If you’re in the mood for a movie instead of a night on the town, say “no” and trust another party will come your way. Whatever the request, don’t fight the way you feel, trust yourself.
  • When you’re afraid of the reaction you’ll get. If you’re only considering saying “yes” because you’re afraid of someone’s reaction to your “no,” consider that your number one red flag. You can’t control other’s opinions of you; and those opinions should never be the guiding force in your decision-making.

When you want to say “no,” keep these tips in mind:

  • Be clear and concise with your answer, direct is best. “No, I can’t,” is easily understood.
  • There’s no need to over explain or over apologize, you have a good reason for declining.
  • Don’t make up stories or lie about why you can’t do something. The more you say, the guiltier you’ll feel.
  • Always thank people for thinking of you.
  • Whatever your response, give it as soon as possible. Once you’ve shared your answer, you’ll feel better and be able to move on.