It’s OK to say No

Saying No.

It’s a struggle I see every day with friends and business associates. We want to do more. We want to do everything. But sometimes we shouldn’t. It’s those situations where we need to say “No.” But it’s hard—very hard. Just look at all the foster dogs and birds who have temporarily resided with me on their way to forever homes, including the one curled up at my feet as I write this.

“No may be the most powerful word in the language, but it’s also potentially the most destructive, which is why it’s hard to say,” says William UryKeep Gracious and Say No, director of the Global Negotiation Project at Harvard University

In fact, that’s one reason people can’t say no: they don’t want to deal with the aftermath, whether it’s upsetting a friend or not being able to help a non-profit. When people say yes they think they are giving the correct answer—but if you say yes when you can’t fully dedicate yourself to what you promised is it really helping?

Instead of automatically saying yes, instead take a few minutes to think about it. You can easily say, “Sounds like a great opportunity (project, event) but I need to check my schedule first and make sure I will be able to do it.” This gives you the chance to think it through and decide if a) it’s something you really want to do, and b) that you will actually be able to deliver.

If you know that you don’t want to take something on when you are asked, you can also say something along the lines of, “I wish I could help because it means a lot to me. I’d like to stay involved and maybe help out in the future.”

It may sound easy, but I know it’s not. Take a breath. Start with the small things and work up to the bigger ones. Every once in a while you’ll say yes, and that yes will mean a whole lot more to both you and them.

2 Responses to It’s OK to say No
  1. Just what I needed to hear!! Thank you so much. And great advice on gently working ‘no’ into a conversation. Gonna borrow that for sure. :)

  2. So true, yet so hard.

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