Articles

The Fine Art of Saying No (so we can still be friends)

Unlike many women I know, I’ve never much struggled with saying, “No,” to a request that came my way which either 1) took time away from the people I’m most responsible for; this includes family/friends/colleagues, or 2) would drain my time/energy/resources away from the tasks/goals I had already prioritized.

I realize this sounds hard-hearted and clinical.

It’s not.

In fact, taking this hardline approach when asked to fill a position/volunteer/take over a project/assume the role someone else dropped…helps me to bring more heart and passion to my primary responsibilities.

Since we’re all given 24 hours in a day, it isn’t a difficult chore to estimate how much free time we have after our basic responsibilities have been fulfilled.

Work
Eat
Sleep
Exercise
Home maintenance
Relationships

Which leaves a pretty narrow margin for:

leisure
volunteering
hobbies
after work/extra work tasks

You get the picture.

It’s easier to politely say, “No,” when you already know how much wiggle room you have in your hours and days.

Over the years, I’ve gotten so focused on determining whom I’m most responsible for (as cited above) and what my primary goals are (see above) that it’s almost instantaneous (in my mind) what I’ll say when asked to consider taking on something new.

Because I’ve practiced this discipline for so long, I can run the request through my mental grid and almost always know from the outset what my answer will be.

Do I always share that with the person immediately? No.

Often, I defer my reply to a later time (but internally I’m virtually 100% sure what that answer will be.)

Saying no (without hurting someone’s feelings) is a fine art.

And more times than not, I’ve had people say to me, “I only said yes because I didn’t want to risk the relationship.” But, in truth, saying yes, did in fact, put the relationship under more strain than a kindly offered, frankly stated, “No, I’m sorry I just can’t help you out on this.”

The very tension we seek to avoid with others takes front and center when we say yes when we know we should be saying no.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m asking someone for something (advice/assistance/information,) I’d rather have them say no (nicely, of course,) than say yes and then resent me for asking in the first place.

If we make our yeses, yeses and our nos, nos…we’d all be better off.

And…back to the whole losing a friend if you say no theory…well, if the relationship can’t stand strong in the face of a simple two-letter word, then you have to wonder what value the relationship is to either individual anyway?

Trust me, I’d never “unfriend” you for saying no to me (but I would certainly respect you for your honesty.)

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