“I feel guilty.”
“I can’t say no.”
“I feel like I have to have a reason.”
“If I don’t do it, who will?”
Why am I suddenly hearing a theme around the difficulty of saying no?
Raise your hand if any of the following statements are true for you:
- I often find myself looking for things to do.
- I wish I would be invited on some projects or committees so I could fill up my idle time.
- My to-do list has virtually nothing on it.
- My days go by so slowly.
- Why doesn’t anyone need my help?
Even one of them?
Likely not even one!
Quite the contrary.
Women are collectively juggling a gazillion balls, running on a non-stop hamster wheel, and making sure everyone around them has what they need.
Often at their own expense.
I will share five reasons you can—and should—say no. Then, I’m going to share with you how to say no in a way you can feel good about.
Our goal is to remove feelings of guilt, coupled with the tendency to apologize.
Disclaimer: The thought shared in this article do not take into consideration the times when someone is in a dire situation, and it is the right thing to do to help them, busy or not.
Five Reasons You Can—and Should—Say No
#1. It doesn’t light you up
You are here to serve a purpose, one that is innate within you. And your personal interests are your own, simmering within you and often unseen by others who don’t know you well.
As you engage in a variety of activities throughout your days, weeks, months and years, there are undoubtedly things that you enjoy more than others. Perhaps you love to bake, or you’re a passionate artist. Maybe you like to be responsible for something. You may love to speak to groups, play with your children or hang out with your grandchildren. Maybe dogs are your jam.
Know what lights you up, so you can think long and hard about saying yes to something that doesn’t light you up. This would be a good time to make a list!
If you love dogs, and your neighbor asks you to dog sit over a weekend, you may leap at the chance to say yes. But if dogs are not your thing, it’s okay to say no.
If someone asks you to join a committee for the non-profit they are passionate about, you don’t have to say yes to simply help your friend if the work won’t light you up.
Thank you so much for asking. It means a lot to me. While I know this is something that is very important to you in your life, it’s not an area where I will shine. Also, I would not want to get in the way of someone else being asked by you who would love to help with this very thing.
#2. You may rob someone else the opportunity to do what DOES light them up!
You said no to the request.
You may have just opened a door for someone else to accept an assignment that will light them up.
A few years ago, I eagerly asked one of my employees to take on a new assignment that I was very excited about. She courageously replied by telling me, “There is nothing about that assignment that I would be excited about. In fact, I would find it difficult to come to work just thinking about it.” I then went on to another employee, ran the idea past him and asked if he would be interested. He replied, “I would love to take on that project!”
Saying no can, in fact, be more selfless than selfish.
When we say no to someone’s request, we dare to believe that we are not the only solution. There’s a bit of “get over ourselves” that is involved with stepping aside from the invitation and feeling confident that someone else exists in the world who can do this very thing.
The same as above: Thank you so much for asking. It means a lot to me. While I know this is something that is very important to you in your life, it’s not an area where I will shine. Also, I would not want to get in the way of someone else being asked by you who would actually love to help with this very thing.
#3. You will sacrifice necessary rest, relaxation and self care
I don’t want you trying to come up with a reason to say no to someone.
You don’t need a reason.
If you feel over-extended in your life—which is common for so many women—you deserve to manage your time to save margin in your day for rest, relaxation and self-care.
And by the way, when you have something on your calendar related to any of these things, that time is spoken for. Just as you protect the meetings and obligations you have on your calendar with others, protect this time for you. You have a meeting with yourself!
If you don’t have your time blocked on your calendar, get on that. Build that margin into your day.
If someone asks for you time, and this is what you’re protecting, you can say,
Thank you so much for asking. Like so many women, I already have too much on my plate, and I’m having difficulty finding time to get to some things that are important in my day. I know the right thing to do is to say no, and I wish you well in finding someone who will be perfect for this request.
#4. It will adversely impact the other things you are already doing
This is a common challenge.
Do you already have more on our plate than you can handle?
Do you already feel that you’re not doing the level of work that you want to be doing?
You don’t have to pile on.
You’re heard people say, “If you want to get something done, ask someone who is already busy.”
Not so fast.
I encourage you to not say yes in the moment only to regret it later.
Thank you so much for asking. I’m already over-extended, and I know if I said yes to you I would not do the level of work that you deserve. For your benefit and for mine, I know the right thing to do is to say no. I wish you well in finding someone who will be perfect for this request.
#5. The person requesting your time and talent will be okay.
This is a belief I want you to have.
This person will be okay.
They will find someone else to help.
Keep in mind: you are an option for them.
There are other options.
Final thought: You’ll notice in the examples I shared, I did not include an apology. Many women tend to over-apologize. You don’t owe an apology for everything. Right?
The first Women Who Spark After 50 Virtual Summit is right around the corner: May 3 – May 7, 2021. Join us for a week-long extravaganza! More than 30 speakers and networking with other like-minded women. Join us at www.womenwhosparksummit.com.
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