Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying “no” soon enough. ~ Josh Billings
by Pete Ferguson
Okay, I have a confession to make, I am a diagnosed people pleaser.
If I am not careful, I will agree to just about anything just to be agreeable. I quickly place myself in another’s shoes and when asked for help I think “if it were me, I’d want the help, so I’ll say YES.”
And so I’ve been known to sign up on many unwanted crusades by saying “yes” too quickly. The trouble is, since I didn’t really want to say yes I’m now stuck between keeping my word and being annoyed that I said yes.
Within family, church, and civic responsibilities, many are not used to hearing the word “no.” It makes you a bad Christian if you do not say yes to every single request for your time and attention, right?
When you allow every request to divert your attention from your most important activities of the day, everyone ends up frustrated. ~ Elizabeth Grace Saunders
The word “no” to me has had an emotional tie of rejection. Which is why I overcommitted myself previously by quickly jumping to a yes.
So how do you start saying “no?”
My wife Stephanie is really strong in this area. She simply says, “that is not going to work for me.”
No rejection, nothing personal. It just isn’t going to work for her.
Some will retort with all the great reasons why Steph should sign up for the PTA, commit a Saturday to service. If pressed, Steph may reveal her hand and let others know that she runs around from piano to dance to cello to violin to harp to flute lessons all week while running a preschool, which usually will dissuade most from pursuing her any further.
But she remains firm.
What I’ve found, interesting enough, is that many people who want a yes from me aren’t really committed to the cause – they are looking to either shift the burden of when they were too coward and said yes – or (misery loves company) they didn’t want to say no either and now they want me to join the club and get the martyr t-shirt as well.
As a recovering people pleaser, I can spot another a mile away.
So how do you muster up the courage to say “no?”
You have to stop drifting!
If you are planning a trip to Las Vegas and the car is packed, your hotel reservations have been made and tickets to your favorite shows are at “will call,” how easily will someone be able to persuade you that Washington D.C. is actually better?
Probably not likely, right?
Why? – Because you already have a plan and a vision of where you want to go and besides, the entire family is in the car and ready to go to Vegas!
And so it is with life. When you have a full plate of what you want to do and how you must accomplish the task, other’s crusades – while completely worthy and upstanding – will have little temptation to distract your time and attention.
So I’m learning to show compassion and encourage another’s request, but then politely say no or explain what else is going on and ask what I should stop doing.
Understand that being able to say “No” is a leadership practice. It’s like when we first learned how to ride a bike, we were a bit sloppy at it. So, give yourself permission to fail, learn, and keep practicing. ~ Henna Inam
- Setting Boundaries & Saying No… Nicely (Elizabeth Grace Saunders)
- Fortune Favors the Prepared Mind (LearnActShare)
- You Either Have the Results or the Reasons Why Not (LearnActShare)
- Stress Relief: When and How to Say No (Mayo Clinic)
- Saying YES with Conviction, and Saying NO with Clarity (SoulSeeds)