I have another confession. I’m just a guy who can’t say no. (Uhh…that sounded bad. I didn’t mean it that way.) I hate telling people no. Boiling it down, there’s one main (subconscious) reason that guides my knee-jerk yes response: Pleasing people. That’s right. I’m a people pleaser. (Correction: A recovering people pleaser.) I needed to learn the lessons below a long time ago.
23. Push the No Button.
“Push the button, Max.”
Like anyone with an engaging professional and social life, I get frequent invitations and requests for my time, energy, and skills. But I can’t do everything.
Saying yes to everything is unhealthy, unwise, and impossible.
But it’s hard to sugarcoat a no.
Won’t saying no make me a jerk? That person will hate me forever if I don’t say yes, right? I’ve asked myself these questions on multiple occasions. And several times I’ve persuaded myself to tell the inquirer yes when I should’ve said no.
Why say no? When? How can we say no with grace?
Groundwork should be established before those questions are answered. A responsible adult ought to have these things:
- Defined priorities
- S.M.A.R.T. goals
- A consistent, stick-to-it plan and purpose for accomplishing #1 & #2
If any request violates the points above, the answer better be no.
Sounds simple, right?
Here are some questions I’m using these days when I evaluate requests for my time:
- Will this cause me to break any other commitment or promise?
- Will I unnecessarily lose sleep over this project?
- Do I risk cutting into time with my family?
- How long will this project really take to complete with a high-quality result?
- Can I deliver a professional, top-notch, high-standard product with this project’s requirements, budget, and deadlines, considering my other commitments and their needs?
- Does this cut into my required-so-I-don’t-die-from-exhaustion margin?
- Will this negatively impact my pursuit of spiritual disciplines?
I have more, but I’ll save your time. (We can dialogue in the comments if you’d like to discuss other ideas. I’m always open to more tips and workable conversation suggestions.)
If I say yes to an invitation, then I’m saying no to something else. Either time alone, an activity with family, or some other priority or activity. It’s a trade-off. Not necessarily bad, but again, that’s why it’s essential to evaluate the request before immediately saying yes.
I’ve personally used the following resources to help me in my people pleasing recovery journey:
- Three Ways to Nicely Say “No” Without Feeling Guilty
- How to Say No to Taking on More Work
- 5 Strategies that Make it Easier to Say No
- 5 Reasons Why You Need to Get Better at Saying No
- How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty [Podcast S06E04]: 8 Strategies for Creating More Margin
I’ll second Michael Hyatt. I’m a recovering people pleaser. I’m a work in progress. I still fail at a lot of things. Like saying yes when I know better.
Perhaps one of my fears, in addition to the fears of losing friends or tarnishing my reputation, is FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). FOMO should get its own post someday. But basically, I need to focus on present commitments and free myself of the infamous FOMO.
Live in the present. Serve others. Be committed and faithful to your priorities.
Do you ever find yourself apologizing when you tell someone no? I do it. All. The. Time.
I should stop apologizing when saying no. If I haven’t done anything wrong, then I don’t need to apologize, right? Speak with grace, yes. Apologize? No.
One final thought: Are there exceptions to saying no? Of course. Sometimes we should say yes to people when normally we’d be inclined to say no. We’re called to love others. Sometimes that means doing hard or inconvenient things.
Show compassion. Actively love. Extend grace and generosity. Be flexible.
Overall, be wise and discerning. Evaluate the situation and your motives. Pray about the opportunity. But make a definite decision and be firm and truthful in your response.
Reminder to self: It’s okay to say no.