Feeling Good About “No”

Recent conversations with four friends from different walks of life left me wondering what happened to our collective ability to utter that very simple, two-letter word that could help make life so much less complicated. Anyone who has been around a toddler for even a few moments understands the effectiveness of an emphatic, fully-committed “no.”

So how have we lost this reflexive response when faced with a request for which we have little time or interest? Why, instead, do we say “yes” when we really want to say “no”? There are many viable explanations, so let’s just name a few…we want to help…we know we CAN help…we feel responsible…we do not want to disappoint. Whatever the reason, many women I know (including me!) are uncomfortable saying “no” to someone about whom we care. We cannot form the word, let alone utter it, despite the fact that it was one of the first expressions we ever used to make it clear that we did not want to do something we were asked or told to do.

So as we begin this new year of 2016, with a big smile I propose alternatives that get the job done without actually saying that word we have so much difficulty voicing to anyone we would want to help… even IF we had a bit extra time on our hands AND we wanted to do what they have asked. By all means, we should always feel free to say, “Yes, I would love to help” if that is what we truly feel. But if an affirmative response is not the first one that comes to mind, try one of these responses…

– “I would love to help you, and will get back to you when I have some extra time. Right now I am over-committed.”

– “I’d love to do something that we both enjoy doing, and this isn’t really it. I hope you understand. Please keep me in mind another time.”

– “I understand that this is important to you, and I wish this was something I did well. Have you asked ____ to pitch in? She/he is great at what needs to be done.”

My New Year’s wish for you is that you recognize the value of your time, that you commit to taking care of yourself, and that you remember how simply and effectively you communicated when you were just two years old. Happy New Year!

28 Responses to Feeling Good About “No”

  1. Erin E February 1, 2016 at 6:44 pm #

    When 2016 began, I started saying yesyesyes – which supported my new year’s resolutions to spend more time with friends, to stay actively involved in my business school alumni chapter, to create strong deliverables at work, to be active, etc. And as invigorating as that was, January flew by and I’m exhausted!

    So I’m starting February refreshed and rested from the weekend and ready to better judge the line between “doing” and “doing too much.” 🙂

    Thanks for the reminder, Sharon. Sending a big hug to you!

    • sharon February 2, 2016 at 9:50 am #

      Happy New Year, Erin! Thanks very much for taking the time to share your experience and wise advice on course-correcting when our New Year’s resolutions need to be modified. I love your phrase “”ready to better judge the line between “doing” and “doing too much.” 🙂 “” – it’s terrific!

      Sending love and a very big hug back to you,

      Sharon

  2. Amy Venetianer January 23, 2016 at 4:26 pm #

    I really enjoyed your piece. My mom and I had a great conversation over the holidays about saying no. She’s not very good at it – and I’ve ‘inherited’ the gene. Now that she is retired and volunteering much of her time, the demands are even greater. She is learning creative ways to keep her sanity without disappointing. I’m still learning – it’s hard!!

    • sharon January 23, 2016 at 4:31 pm #

      Thanks very much for sharing your comment, Amy. I love that you and your mom are learning together and really appreciate that “She is learning creative ways to keep her sanity without disappointing.” We could all use advice on this!

      Sending all the best wishes for a terrific 2016 and a very big hug,

      Sharon

  3. RAMONA January 12, 2016 at 12:18 am #

    HAPPY NEW YEAR
    THANK YOU SO MUCH
    I WANT TO LEARN HOW TO RESPOND TO QUESTIONS I AM ASKED AND IMMEDIATLY FEEL SO SO UNCOMFORTABLE.
    THANK YOU
    THANK YOU
    I AM GOING TO START PRACTICING

    • sharon January 12, 2016 at 9:53 am #

      Happy New Year, Ramona. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I admire you commitment to begin practicing saying “no” when that is truly want to say.

      Sending all the best wishes for a terrific 2016 and, of course, a hug,

      Sharon

    • Alexandra January 14, 2016 at 1:33 pm #

      “No” is a powerful word. There is no need to translate it because it has the same meeting in most languages. Yes, it is a valid response but a difficult one. I will start practicing with the suggested responses. Thank You Sharon !!!! receive a BIG hug, Alex

      • sharon January 14, 2016 at 2:41 pm #

        You are so right, Alex, “no” is a powerful word. I am grateful to you for sharing your thoughts.

        With love and a very big New Year hug,

        Sharon

  4. Kate Denby January 11, 2016 at 5:48 pm #

    Sharon, thank you for this, especially those phrases, which I have tucked away in my psyche when someone asks me to do something to which my heart says “NO!” What a perfect way to start the New Year. Thank you for sharing your insights. As always, you are spot on!

    Kate

    • sharon January 11, 2016 at 11:21 pm #

      Thanks very much for your comment, Kate. How much happier we would be if we listened every time our heart says “no”! .

      Sending a hug and very best wishes for a terrific 2016!

      Sharon

  5. Hilda January 6, 2016 at 1:03 pm #

    Hi Sharon, so good to hear from you again.

    I really appreciate your post. I thought about how many times I have heard a “No” as a response from someone and how I took it. There have been times in which a “No” had a more impactful outcome overall.

    Have a great 2016!

    • sharon January 6, 2016 at 10:36 pm #

      It’s wonderful to hear from you, too, Hilda. Thanks for taking the time to share your perspective.

      Sending all the best wishes for a terrific 2016 and a big hug,

      Sharon

  6. Rhoda January 6, 2016 at 4:19 am #

    Hi Sharon
    Thanks for this great reminder at the start of a new year! Very helpful 🙂 I hope you are doing really well . All the very best for 2016 and beyond!
    Best
    Rhoda

    • sharon January 6, 2016 at 8:19 am #

      So great to hear from you, Rhoda. Thanks so much for reaching out.

      Sending a hug and very best wishes for a terrific 2016!

      Sharon

  7. Carnella Lewis January 4, 2016 at 10:40 pm #

    Hi Sharon,

    Happy New Year!

    My Mother told me when I was growing up that there is power in being able to say “no” as an honesty measure. She used to say, “even when you are better at the requested thing you are asked, no forces others to stretch and learn in many situations. The proper Management of “No” is a talent with high performance people I have noticed.

    Thanks for Leading with this important topic.

    • sharon January 5, 2016 at 8:24 am #

      Thanks very much for taking the time to share your insights, Carnella, and your Mom’s! You are two very wise women with perspectives that can help us all.

      Sending all the best wishes for a terrific 2016 and, of course, a hug,

      Sharon

  8. Deb Wieghaus January 4, 2016 at 3:55 pm #

    Happy New Year Sharon!
    I wish I read this sooner:)
    I should “no” better, but I say yes anyway.
    Starting now I will “no” better!!!
    Deb

    • sharon January 4, 2016 at 4:22 pm #

      Happy New Year, Deb! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment…and for the smile!

      Sending a hug and very best wishes for a terrific 2016!

      Sharon

  9. ashton January 4, 2016 at 1:00 pm #

    I try to remember that by over committing we are guaranteed to under deliver. I used to feel that i’d be disappointing someone by saying no- but showing up distracted, overwhelmed, and unhappy can be just as disappointing (both to them and me)! Thanks for affirming that saying no can be the right thing and occasionally more helpful than saying yes.

    • sharon January 4, 2016 at 1:05 pm #

      Ashton, thanks very much for your comments. I love the way you summed it up — “saying no can be the right thing and occasionally more helpful than saying yes.”

      Sending a hug and very best wishes for a terrific 2016!

      Sharon

  10. Julie Solomon January 4, 2016 at 12:56 pm #

    This was the perfect posting for me to read on the first business day after the holidays, and right before I leave on my first vacation in months and months! I want to spend my vacation doing things other than work, so a polite decline to satisfy certain last-minute requests will be key. Thank you so much, Sharon! And happy New Year to all!

    • sharon January 4, 2016 at 1:01 pm #

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, Julie. I hope you have a wonderful vacation and are able to “unplug.”

      Sending a hug and very best wishes for a terrific 2016!

      Sharon

  11. Kim January 4, 2016 at 12:42 pm #

    A wise woman once told me that by my saying NO, I was leaving the door open for another to say Yes. In the process, we share the learning, joy and work!

    • sharon January 4, 2016 at 12:47 pm #

      Love this insight, Kim. Thanks very much for sharing it.

      Sending a hug and very best wishes for a terrific 2016!

      Sharon

  12. Tara January 2, 2016 at 11:01 am #

    Great suggestions to respectfully say “no” and take back control of our precious time.

    • sharon January 2, 2016 at 11:32 pm #

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Tara. Love your expression “take back control of our precious time.”

      All the best wishes for a terrific 2016!

      Sharon

      • Mary January 6, 2016 at 8:52 am #

        As a young toddler my parents affectionately called me “Princess Nowanna” related

        to my quite often and quick reponse to their requests, “I nowanna do ……”

        Somewhere through time I lost my tiara. Thanks for the reminder to go and look for

        it.

        • sharon January 6, 2016 at 10:40 pm #

          Mary, thank you for sharing this story, and for the smile. You remind us that humor is important, and that we need not take ourselves so seriously!

          Sending all the best wishes for a terrific 2016 and big hug. I hope you find that tiara soon!

          Sharon

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