How To Say No

Photography by Hallie Duesenberg

Photography by Hallie Duesenberg

By Susan "Honey" Good

My daughter, Jenny, and I were having a conversation about my Grand, Skylar. I am very careful not to interfere in my daughter’s life but every once in a while, when I am passionate about something, I very carefully -- almost stuttering inside myself -- say..."No, I disagree."

For such a tiny word, "No" makes a big impact, darlings.

I am over the top relieved to tell you that I have finally learned to say "No" to my family on occasion,  friends, and business acquaintances. It has not been an easy journey. The issue of saying "No" has been of great interest to me because I have been a pleaser most of my life, struggling to learn a way that is comfortable for my type of personality to utter that small, one syllable, yet life-changing word.

I often wondered how some of my friends and family seemed so comfortable saying the  "No" when it was so uncomfortable for me. And yet, saying "Yes" did not always have a positive effect on my feelings. I found it to be a weakness and a personality trait I wanted to tweak because saying "Yes" is only wonderful when it feels right.

First and foremost, I have learned that there is power in putting your needs first. Saying "No" to others  -- in a positive way -- is saying "Yes" to yourself and that my, darlings, is a very alluring and exciting feeling.

Here are two illuminating quotes that helped me on my journey.

“When you say YES to others, make sure you are not saying NO to yourself.”

~Paulo Coelho

“It is only by saying NO that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”

~Steve Jobs

Two situations that happened to me a year ago sent me into my shock mode and proved to be the catalyst that sent me on my personal quest to teach myself a set  just say "No" of skills, appropriate for my personality type.

MY MANTRA

  • I have to feel comfortable in each situation to say "No."
  • I have to feel confident with my decision.
  • I have to leave the scene with my relationship with that person(s) or organization(s) in tact.
  • I cannot be daunted or afraid to flex my "No" muscle when it becomes necessary.

MY TIPS

Rule number one: When you want to say "No" and are unsure of how to respond, just say, “Let me think about this and I will get back to you.” This will give you time to think of an appropriate response.

  • If you are asked to help on a committee or join a group and you do not care to be involved: “Thank you for asking me. I am flattered. I am working on (name the committee(s) and I am involved in several groups (name a group(s) and cannot commit any more of my time." I feel that naming the committee(s) and group(s) confirms and legitimizes your reply of "No." Both parties leave the conversation feeling satisfied!
  • If you are asked to do something and don’t want to be involved but you like the idea: “Thank you for asking me. I will try and pass your idea and name onto someone I know. ” This lets the person know you like the idea and will help while at the same time saying "No." You can both smile and feel great.
  • If you are asked to do something and do not want to do it under any circumstances: “I am sorry that I cannot come through for you. I have to say, 'No.'" This answer is simple, direct, and people will respect you for taking a stance. This is the hardest for me, because I don’t like to disappoint.
  • Saying "No" to my adult children is 99% impossible. What do I do? I say, "Yes!" They are my children and they are such good daughters, wives, moms and pillars in their communities. Saying "Yes" makes me feel marvelous. Saying  "No" would make me very unhappy because my daughters don’t take advantage of me. The 1% "No" kicks in when I am passionate about something, and then I take a deep breath, and with self-assurance, composure, and level headedness, I use my aplomb, darlings! It is extremely difficult for me.

Every action has a reaction. Therefore,  almost every time you say "No" make sure it comes with an explanation. This is important because you will feel powerful and sensationally marvelous that you were able to say "No" while still feeling satisfied that you left no emotional injuries behind. A win, win for all! AMEN!