Saying No


Saying what we mean and meaning what we say.  Often, this comes as a challenge.  It’s a very simple concept with potentially complicated repercussions when ignored.  I have been thinking of this idea particularly in the ways that we make offers and receive requests.  How many times has someone asked you to do something that you know you don’t want to do and you find it so hard to tell them no?  Why at that very moment does it seem easier to say “yeah that sounds great” and then make up an excuse later?

Why is it hard to say no?  Why is it hard to set limits?  How can we counter offer?

I believe we are taught that denying someone’s request means we are being vindictive, selfish, and downright mean.  That’s often how I feel.  However, it seems socially acceptable to say “yes” and then create a white (or not so white) lie last minute.  We often think a last minute cancel communicates, “I would have really liked to be there, but something came up.”  Of course there are real reasons for last minute cancellations, but what about when your friends know you are not being truthful?

What happens when you create these white lies repeatedly?  Your friends and family come to expect them out of you.  In fact we all have the “flaky” friend who often fails to come through.  We often resent their ability to communicate honestly with us.  In the end, they come off as selfish and inconsiderate.  They also are often deemed unreliable and are no longer asked to be a part of meaningful moments in our lives.

What does setting limits, saying no, and communicating honestly look like?  What does it feel like?

I had a friend ask me to help her with a party she was throwing that I would also be a guest at.  She made her request, which was seemingly fair but a little vague for me.  I took a moment and pictured what I would like that day and evening to look like and I made a clear counter offer.  I specifically said, I would love to help you for 6 hours on that day and I offered a time range.  She said that sounded great and was then able to plan for any additional help she might need outside those six hours.  We both felt confidant about the exchange knowing what we could expect from one another.  I can imagine the disappointment we avoided had one of us had unclear expectations of the other.

Some thoughts on saying no.  When a request of you is made that you have no desire to fulfill, pause for a moment and think about why.  Remind yourself of a few things:

If it’s fair for someone to make a request, it’s fair for someone to deny a request

You don’t need to give elaborate excuses

The more comfortable you are responding honestly to requests, the more comfortable people will have making fair requests of you

Saying no takes practice

Saying no to one thing means saying yes to something else

Saying no or making counter requests can sound like the following:

  • I would really like to but unfortunately that doesn’t work with my schedule
  • It wont work for me this time, but maybe next week/month
  • I would love to but I can’t
  • If you don’t mind leaving it open, I will play by ear, I just can’t commit now
  • I could help you for half the time
  • I can’t but I might know someone who can

I hope this gives you some tools to use and would love to hear about your successful counter offers.

Have a great week and a fabulous 4th