Let’s talk about saying no, flexing that no muscle. Now is as good as time as any to practice saying no more to the things that are outside your priority list.
It can often be so hard to say no respectfully, in a way that honours both yourself and your time, as well as the requester’s time. We’ve all been in those situations where your friend asks you to come to a Linen party, or your Aunty asks you to mow her lawns, or charities try to track you down in the mall to donate to their causes. We know we might need to say no at these times, but it’s oh so hard to actually say no, and before you know it you’ve agreed to adopt a Snow Leopard!
Why do we Struggle to Say NO?!?
Put simply, we struggle with learning how to say no because we are people pleasers. We want to be accepted as part of the group and we don’t want to let other people down. We don’t want them to make judgments about us or the kind of person we are, and we want them to think of us as being a nice, kind, giving person. But the main reason we really struggle to say no is because we’re not actually clear on what our priorities are, or even what our diaries look like. This brings us back to the fact that slow living is an active choice. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, slow living is an active choice (you can read more about that in my previous blog post). It’s when you let life passively pull you along that things get a little bit out of control, and a little bit busy. Slow living is about intention and how you choose to prioritise your life because if you don’t prioritise your time, other people will. And that is why it’s so important to learn how to say no.
Let’s Set Ourselves Up for Success!
You need to know what you’ve got in your diary! I recommend sitting down weekly, monthly, and even daily at different periods to figure out what you have coming up tomorrow, later this week, or even at the end of the month. Schedule in all the things that you need to achieve for yourself and for your family, including everything that’s going on at work, or in your business. And even schedule in downtime and rest. Schedule time in the margins to get from one activity to the next, and for you to be able to chill and relax, reset, and get the things done at home that you often put off. Activities like meal planning, shopping, tidying and cleaning, reading books to the kids, and spending time with the family, are all of those things that we think will happen but if we don’t schedule them, they often get left behind. And those are actually the things that make ourselves feel fulfilled so it’s really important to make sure you’ve got enough time to fit those little things in.
Remember to set some rules around how you will and won’t schedule your diary. It’s important to have boundaries, and to include your family in what you will or won’t say yes to. Double-check with your partner to make sure particular events or activities fit in with the family’s schedule. You could even think about having a shared diary with your partner so that you can quickly check to see if there’s anything else on a particular day or time.
When you know what’s 100% essential and what your priorities are, it’s much easier to say yes to the right things and no to everything else. Then when you do get invites or requests for your time, you’ve got a strategy around what you’ll say no to and how you’ll respond in a kind and loving way.
How can we actually say NO Respectfully?
Deciding when you are going to say no is one thing, but actually saying no can be very scary. Let’s go through some ways of how you might say no respectfully in particular situations.
1. Requests in Social Settings
In a social setting, you could say “I would love to attend that event with you, but I just need to check my diary first”. When you do decide to say yes to something, make sure you stick to your word. This is respectful of your time and respectful of the other person’s time. If you’ve committed to something, even if you feel exhausted and no longer want to attend that dinner you said yes to weeks ago, tell yourself that you are someone who sticks to your word and make sure you get to that event. Then next time make a mental note that’s the kind of thing that you shouldn’t really be saying yes to in the first place because future you is more optimistic than current you.
2. Requests from Charities etc
I’m positive we’ve all had that little bit of anxiety as we pass charities in the middle of the mall, your heart is beating fast, you try to walk wide or hide behind the person walking on the inside..even pretend to be on your phone. It’s really a horrible feeling and experience. But next time you can stop and say to them “wow, that’s an amazing cause. I would love to be able to support it, but unfortunately, I’ve already chosen my charities for this year, I really wish you all the best in getting the funding that you need and good luck with everything in the future”.
3. Requests for Help from Friends and Family
Saying no to friends and family for requests of help or favours is a hard one. It’s probably the hardest no to give and the reason for that is because our priorities often are to be kind or loving in our relationships with our friends and family. They are one of our highest values. So this is a time when you may decide to rejig your days to help the person that’s requesting. It may be a priority for you to be able to say yes to those requests, and that’s fine. But if there’s a situation when you physically can’t do it, and you have another commitment, it’s okay to be honest. Honesty is the best policy, and it is possible to still say no respectfully. Just say, “I have another commitment at that time. I’m really sorry. I would love to help you. You know I would help if I didn’t already have something on but I can’t help you this time. If you can do it at a different time or if we can reschedule it I definitely will be able to. Or give me a bit more notice and I’ll help you out.” Those are all very easy, legitimate responses and they probably go without saying, but if you’re in the habit of saying yes and people-pleasing, this might also be something that you just need to hear..it is okay to say no if you aren’t able to do something that someone has requested of you.
The One Time saying YES is the Right Thing to do!
There is one time when saying yes is probably the right thing to do, and that’s when you say yes to your kids. This idea is inspired by Simone Davies who wrote The Montessori Toddler, it’s a really valuable book. According to Simone, kids in their childhood will hear the word no 20,000 times, but they’ll only hear the word yes 4000 times. So they hear no five times more than they hear yes. As per Montessori philosophy, we want our kids to be positive about the world and to feel like they live in a yes kind of environment where things are possible and they are able to do what they desire, with confidence. So saying yes more often is a really valuable way of programming your child’s subconscious to believe that they are capable.
Watch my YouTube video below, How to Say NO Easily (No Guilt!), for a script to help you indirectly say yes to your kids, while still saying no, but in a way that sounds like a yes.
Okay, so now it’s up to you. Share your wins in the comments, and let us know if there was a situation where you still struggled with saying no? How have you learned to prioritise your own time a little bit more effectively? If you enjoyed this blog and really felt it resonated with you, I’d love to invite you to join my community. You can subscribe to our YouTube channel where you’ll find even more slow living ideas, tips and discussion. And you can also subscribe below to this blog, and I will be able to send you emails letting you know the latest news and updates, including when new blogs and videos are released.