It took some time, a lot of time, for me to learn to say no but I finally did. And it felt so good that I started saying to everyone all the time! No, nope, not going to happen, not interested, nada, forget about it...those words started flowing out of my mouth like water rushing over a waterfall. I'm not going to lie, it was glorious. Until I got bored.
So, where is that happy balance between saying yes and saying no? Here's what I've found--
- Say no to things that bring too much stress with them. If an overabundance of stress is going to be involved, you're not going to enjoy the task nor are you going to give it 100%. You're probably going to have an attitude or two about it and people are going to be the receivers of those attitudes. Loads of situations are going to bring stress with them but the ones that bring too much stress, just say, 'NO.'
- The comfort zone. I've found that saying yes to helping outside my comfort zone is not necessarily a bad thing. It exposes me to new people, new ideas, new experiences, and gets me out of the house so that I know there's still a whole world out there. However, if it is just too far out of my comfort zone, I feel better saying no. This is where some of that overabundance of stress comes into play.
- Make a list. It sounds silly but those pro/con lists are truly helpful.
- Check your interest level. Is this a passion of yours? Have you developed a new interest in it? Are you simply curious and want to check it out? If you can answer those questions in the affirmative, then saying yes is a great idea! If not, perhaps a no is in order for this particular task.
- Don't say yes because you feel you HAVE to. You know, those times when it's your best friend who asked you or your aging parents or your boss or spouse or your children. Who does the asking should never determine your response. If you're saying yes to doing something you hate based solely on feelings of obligation, some resentment is going to creep in there. Be very careful here. It's ok to say no and to give your reasons. Not that reasons should be a requirement.
- Don't say yes to things above your ability. Getting in over your head is going to lead you right to being overly stressed. Either say no or make it clear that this is not something you know how to do but with help you'd be glad to give it a try. Be careful, though as sometimes people will throw you under the bus. Yes, I speak from experience. I find it best to partner with someone who does know what they're doing and learn from them. You may even discover you knew more than you thought you did.
- Don't use your refusal as an excuse. I know, this sounds odd but it's happened to me. I got so used to saying no, I used it as an excuse to stay at home and not do much of anything. It could be this was directly related to some depression at the time but just be careful and make sure you aren't using a negative response as an excuse to avoid living.
- Don't overextend yourself. Yes, this happened to me. I was sitting on so many committees and volunteering so much that my hours were those of a workaholic who puts in well over those measly 40 hours/week. Overextending ourselves means someone or something is going to pay by being slighted or receiving some pretty major bad moods that come from being too busy and really, really tired. Exhausted, really. Ask yourself: Do I have the time?
- Don't be afraid to ask for time to think about it. If we jump right in or jump right out, we may regret it. Take a bit of time and make that pro/con list and ask yourself the important questions before you give your final answer.
- CHECK YOUR MOTIVATION. Are you saying yes or no for the right reasons? Are you avoiding someone or something? Are you living in fear? Are you looking for recognition? Do you feel obligated? Are you passionate? Do you feel you have something to prove?