Last Updated on September 9, 2020 by Corinne Schmitt
One of the best skills you can develop if you want to take charge of your life is learning how to say no. A common trait among Wondermom Wannabes is wanting to help everyone.
While there is nothing wrong with being altruistic and charitable, if you spread yourself too thin everyone suffers. No matter how organized and efficient you are, you only have two hands and there are only 24 hours in each day.
Yes, you probably can run the bake sale better than Susie’s mom, but then you would have to miss your son’s baseball game. Also, when someone personally asks you to help her, it can be hard to say no without feeling guilty for letting her down.
So, first things first, you should never feel guilty saying no unless you’re just doing it to be mean. Even if your reason is something you consider selfish (e.g. You don’t want to give up your afternoon soap opera to volunteer in your child’s class) don’t feel bad, because taking care of your needs helps you tend better to others’ needs.
For those of you who exercise regularly, you’ve probably already figured this out the one or two times you missed a workout and all that aggression that didn’t get released through exercise came out as anger at your family. When we don’t take care of our own needs, we start to resent the people and responsibilities that we believe are preventing us from doing it and eventually take it out on them.
How to Say No
Now that you realize that it is okay to say no, a lot of us have trouble actually saying the word. We are nurturers and problem solvers. We make people feel good. We don’t like to tell people (other than our children) no.
Here’s how to say no without offending the person asking for your help:
It’s hard to be offended when someone is giving you a compliment. Instead of saying “No” directly, redirect with a compliment to the person on whatever they are asking you to help with.
Oftentimes, they won’t realize that you didn’t commit until after you’ve parted ways. If they press with their request though, you’ve now softened them up so your “No” won’t feel like a slap in the face.
- “That sounds like a really fun event.”
- “What a worthwhile cause! It’s so nice of you to volunteer your time to it.”
- “Such a great idea!”
Another way to deflect negative feelings when you are turning down an opportunity is to thank the person for asking. This lets the other person know you value the relationship, even though you might not be able to help at this time.
- “Thank you for thinking of me.”
- “I’m so flattered you considered me for this.”
- “I really appreciate your confidence in me.”
- “I am touched that you thought of me.”
Just Say No
Although you may feel like you have to offer a specific reason for not being able to help someone else, you don’t. Keep your reason broad, while making it clear you’re not available.
- “I wish I could, but I have too many other commitments right now.”
- “I don’t have enough time to do the job properly so I have to pass.”
- “I have another obligation that will interfere, so I’m afraid I can’t.”
- “I can’t help (or make it) this time.”
- “That’s not really my sort of thing so I have to say no.”
Optional: Offer Help That You Are Willing to Give (if any)
“Please consider me next time when my schedule should be clearer.”
“I do know a few other people who might be interested. Let me pass the information onto them and have them contact you.”
“Although I can’t make it, I could help get copies made.”
How to Say No When the Other Person is Persistent
Many women I know are non-confrontational. When someone is persistent, they end up giving in simply because it seems easier than continuing to refuse.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you knew how to say no to someone who won’t take no for an answer?
If you’ve followed the advice above and done what you can to make sure the person knows your “no” isn’t meant to be unkind or disrespectful, that person is now being inconsiderate to YOU and your needs. Why would you want to help someone like this?
You won’t be able to change the other person, so when dealing with someone who won’t accept your “no” the best thing to do is tell them you are firm in your decision and then disengage.
More Tips For Taking Care of Yourself
I hope you’ll use some of the tips on how to say no from above. Then, you’ll have time to take care of yourself so that you can be an even better mom, spouse, friend and volunteer. Here are some other ideas to help you do that: