Saying no is hard. I’ll say it again. Saying no is hard. Especially for those of you like me who don’t like to let people down. However, by constantly saying ‘yes’ to things you don’t want to do, don’t want to attend, or just don’t have time for is not doing anyone any good.
Plus, it leaves less time for saying ‘yes’ to things that really mean a lot to you.
Things such as: spending time with family, friends, spending time in nature, spending time on hobbies you love, experiences, and self-care, etc.
Is it going to be easy? No. Is it going to be worth it? Yes.
Think: benefits such as less stress/anxiety, less burnout, better relationships with the people that matter to you most, better self-care, and more.
Since we already established that saying no is hard, I came up with four guilt-free ways to say no, in order to say yes to a life you want.
Schedule time on your calendar
If you have a hard time saying no to things that come up, whether that be projects or activities, fill your calendar with commitments that mean the most to you such as: me time/self-care, family time, exercise, or time with friends. For example, Mr. Blographer and I schedule certain times each week that is family time. If something comes up at the same time, we know that we are already ‘busy’ and don’t schedule anything else. The key is to treat it like any other commitment on your calendar!
Commit to a certain number of activities a week, and don’t go over that. My family is an active one, and we like to go out and ‘do stuff’. But we also like to have our time to spend time with each other, relax and unwind. So we started a rule that we only do one ‘activity’ a day, and nothing more. For example, if we have a commitment in the evening, we try our best to lay low at home during the day. If we sign Little E up for swimming lessons, we don’t sign him up for anything else during that period.
Does that mean we’re at home doing nothing? Not always. Sometimes being at home means doing chores, but at least we have the time to do them and not let them get stacked up to a point of being overwhelmed.
Of course, things do come up where this isn’t possible some days, but overall, it has been really beneficial. Find the number of activities that your family enjoys doing and can handle without feeling rushed and stressed out and take a hard look at what you can let go of. That will look different for everyone!
I know this is hard. Trust me, I really do. But here are some things to keep in mind. First, just because you are invited to something doesn’t mean it’s implied that you go. Here is another example. Just because someone asks you to do something doesn’t mean you are obligated to say yes, even if you feel like you are. You are not.
Take the example of being invited to something - let’s say a party. If you go to a party that you are really dreading, what vibe are you putting out to the host that has spent a lot of resources on the occasion? If that were you, would you rather the person just have said no versus going and acting like they are not having a good time because they don't want to be there?
Second, just because you say no does not mean you are selfish. In my opinion, it means the opposite. It goes back to the commonly known example of putting the oxygen mask on yourself first before helping anyone else. Don’t wear yourself out going to things you aren’t excited about, or by doing things you are dreading to do.
Third, people won’t be mad. And if they are, is that someone you want in your life anyway?
“The people who matter won’t mind, and the people that mind don’t matter” -Bernard M. Baruch
I know there may be some exceptions to this in situations such as family gatherings. This is a little harder because with family gatherings there are times when you are expected to go. However, think of ways you can compromise. If you go to Christmas, you can spend Thanksgiving with another group or at home relaxing, for example. Or maybe you stay for Christmas Eve dinner, but skip the after-dinner movie (or caroling - does anyone do this?).
Finally, remember that just because you are saying no to something does not mean you are not grateful or appreciative. It simply means no, thank you, but I just can't. If someone asks you to do something for them and you are too tired, burnt out, etc., be firm and simply respond by thanking them for thinking of you, but you aren’t able to accommodate at this time.
Simply say no
Yep, easier said than done. But sometimes, it’s best just to say no. You don’t owe anyone any type of excuse or reasoning. I find that I start babbling out my excuses when I feel bad or guilty about saying no to something. But truly, it isn’t needed. It is a waste of everyone’s time to ‘let them down gently’ or to string them along with ‘maybes’ or ‘let me get back to you’ with the full intention of not saying yes. These are stalling tactics. Stop them now.
With practice and time, saying 'no' will start to become easier. And remember to keep in mind that the more you say 'no' to that doesn't serve you, the more time you will have for things that do.
What tips do you use for saying 'no'? What do you have trouble saying 'no' to?