Sometimes You Have to Say No

It’s been a busy summer. We’ve allowed various people to stay at our home for the last four months solid, and we’ve helped with three separate moves. On top of that, there have been family obligations, activities, and the revelation that one of my close relatives has breast cancer. As you might imagine, these activities have put a lot of demands on my time, and sometimes cause stress in my life. I hate to say “no” to people — especially to friends and relatives — but sometimes the line has to be drawn. This is a concept I have difficulty with, but after my hectic summer schedule culminated in illness this past weekend, I realize that it is probably a good idea for me to say “no” a little more.

The Importance of Saying No

Always saying yes is not healthy for your emotional or physical health. If you already have a lot of demands on your time, saying yes to one more thing can result in increased levels of stress, and there is ample evidence that stress overload can have negative effects on your physical and mental health. Even when you think that saying yes is only intruding on your “personal time“, you could suffer ill effects. After all, personal time is often vital to your total well being.

Consider your situation, and review your obligations. Decide what is most important to you. I feel it is important for me to help out at my son’s school. I can do this once a week, for an hour, in my son’s classroom. However, I know that I do not have the time available to be a good room parent, planning events and devoting extra time, so I turn down requests for this position. I also turn down some jobs, knowing that I do not have time for them. I am also discovering that sometimes I have to offer less time to help with moves, so that I can get my work done, since I am the primary breadwinner for my family. Saying no has helped simplify my life to some extent.

This also affects my son. Instead of constantly ferrying him to several activities a week, I will let him choose the most important activities to him. I can take him to two activities a week, but unless there are carpool arrangements, he may need to reduce his expectations for activities. Besides, requiring him to choose will (hopefully) teach him to prioritize and say no in the future.

How to Say No

When you feel harried and stressed by all that you have to do, it may mean that it is time to cut back. I wasn’t sure about how to say no, but the Mayo Clinic offers some great insight into how to say no. Here are five tips from the Mayo Clinic that can help you say no appropriately:

  1. Say no instead of equivocating with less powerful words and phrases like “maybe”, “I don’t think so”, and “I’m not sure.”
  2. Be brief rather than going into long justifications and explanations.
  3. Be honest and straightforward. You don’t have to make up reasons. If something isn’t going to work with your schedule, just say, “I’m sorry, but it doesn’t work with my schedule. No.”
  4. Be respectful toward the other person. Use a sympathetic tone, and be genuinely sorry, and show your respect. But don’t waver in your resolve.
  5. Repeat if necessary. Try to remain respectful and calm throughout, but repeat your “no.”

Saying no may not always be pleasant, but it might be necessary. You don’t always want to say no, but when it is important that you do so, make sure you are firm, and that you stand your ground. Your well being might depend on it.

7 Responses to Sometimes You Have to Say No

  1. I can easily say to NO to people who I don’t care too much about or just acquaintances, but extremely hard to say NO to my close friends and family. Good thing that most of my family rarely ask for anything which goes the same with my good friends.

    • @Lop, this is true but sometimes family may not ask for something but there are expectations built-in in the relationships that you need to fulfill. If you are overwhelmed and need to bow out, an explicit NO is better than just letting things slide.

  2. Well said, Miranda. Learning to say “no” is such a critical part of controlling your own life instead of allowing others to control it. The “Boundaries” book series by Cloud and Townsend has been a great help for me. In fact, our Sunday School class is currently studying the original Boundaries book. The five tips you gave from the Mayo Clinic align well with the principles that Cloud and Townsend teach.

    • @Joe, this sounds like a great book to read next. I have been re-discovering Napoleon Hill’s work and a particular sentiment struck a chord with me. It simply says, to paraphrase, “it is humiliating that most of us are more easily influenced by suggestions made by others than suggestions that our own minds make”. Not to say you need to be anti-social, but your primary responsibility is towards upkeep of your own mind and bodies, and once you are able to be true to yourself, the rest will fall into place.

  3. Learning how to say no can save you a lot of money and time. While you may want to sign yourself up for everything, it is important not to spread yourself too thin. If you have way too many things on the go, you won’t be able to put your best foot forward because things can get really busy and complicated. Just say no if you think you will be overwhelmed or won’t be able to give something your all.

    • @Moneyedup, you are right, it is better to pick and choose your commitments and do them justice than to try and please everyone around and fail to give your best.

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