Would love to know your tips and strategies for saying “no.” Please share in the comments!!
If there’s one thing that is a constant struggle for me, it’s striking a balance between saying yes and no. I don’t know if it’s that I like to say yes… or hate to say no… probably some kind of combination of the two. Part of me feels guilty about telling someone that I can’t do something. Part of me wishes I were– and sometimes thinks I am– superhuman (or at least Hermione with a time turner) and had extra hours in the day. And part of me really just wants people to like me and saying yes feels like an easy solution.
I go through weeks at a time where I’m in a “YES” mode and weeks where I’m better about prioritizing my time and saying no when necessary.
The problem is that there’s always guilt involved. I feel guilty for saying that I don’t have time to grab coffee with someone. But I know that I could make it work if I woke up an hour earlier and cut Teddy’s morning walk in half. I could give up my Saturday and Sunday afternoons to work on an extra project. I could go that event on Thursday, but that would mean going to bed late and feeling groggy Friday morning.
For a long time, I was able to say yes and make it work. The requests were small and I like being able to do something little for people. Now, I feel like it’s getting harder and harder to please everyone and I forget to take care of myself and my personal priorities (spending time with Garrett, going on great walks with Teddy, reading every day, writing in the afternoon, eating and sleeping right, etc.).
A friend forwarded me this newsletter from Danielle Laporte recently. While a million things rang true for me, it was this line that really got to me: “For months, my first waking thought was, ‘Who am I going to have to say no to and disappoint today?'”
I’m doing my best over here to work with growing companies (and the amazing entrepreneurs behind them) as I can… Supporting friends and their own adventures… Answering emails with questions about college or moving to NYC or what prom dress to wear… doing interviews or mini-consulting sessions and meeting with readers for coffee! But the volume is getting to a tipping point where I’ve had to say no more often than I’d like. And that guilt weighs heavily on me. “Who am I going to have to say no to and disappoint today?”
Saying no has not gotten easier for me (I hate it, I really do), but I’ve set up some rules of thumb for myself that has helped me prioritize.
I won’t say no just because I’m afraid.
I won’t say no if I really do have the time.
I won’t say no if I’ve already committed.
I won’t say no, but I might modify or negotiate the ask.
It’s actually that last one that has been most helpful. It works for now and I’m sure there will be a point in the not-so-distant future where it won’t anymore… but for now it’s golden. I might modify or negotiate the ask. My schedule might not allow me to meet someone for coffee, but I can offer to answer a couple questions over email. I might not be able to host an event, but I can suggest some of my friends who might be interested. I might not know how to help someone, but I can refer them to someone who does. Just because it’s not a “yes,” does not mean that it has to be a complete “no.”
While it may not be a perfect solution, it’s something I’m working on daily. This whole saying yes/no thing is something that I wish I had worked on more when I was younger. Even in high school, I remember overcommitting for no reason other than I wanted to please someone. I didn’t want to disappoint them. I’m having to rewire some of those thoughts in my brain and, gulp, learning how to graciously say no.