Monday, April 2, 2012

How to Say No: Advice from 8 Experts

Magnet that says Stop her before she volunteers again
Magnet by Allison Strine

It's so easy to overcommit — to say "yes" to things that don't help us move to the life we really want. If you could use some encouragement on how to say "no" when it's appropriate, listen to some of these experts. (Go read the full posts; I'm just including short excerpts here.)

1. Lisa Barone summarized the problem in a tweet:
No. No. No. No. See, that's not so hard? Why can't I learn to say that more often?
And here's another tweet from Lisa:
If the answer isn't "OMG, yes!" it has to be "no." Time constraints make it so.
2. Chris Brogan tells us to be clear and polite.
Thank you for thinking of me. I’m going to have to pass. My workload and priorities are such that I can’t add this project to my schedule.
And here's more Chris:
From now on, I resolve to say no faster. I will say no with grace and poise and kindness, but I will say no.
3. Chris pointed me to Dharmesh Shah, who has a great title on his post:
Dear Friend: Sorry. My heart says yes, but my schedule says no.
4. Fellow organizer Monica Ricci provides five ways to say no, including this short and simple one:
Thank you for asking, but I'm going to pass.
5. Here's Patrick Rhone, in his book entitled Enough:
I think saying no is far too often misunderstood and misrepresented. I think it automatically puts one on the defensive, as if we must explain our reasons why. While its very definition may be negative, in practice it is often quite positive. I think we need to remove the wholly negative stigma from the idea of saying no. ...

In fact, when it comes to parting with your time, attention, or money, no should be your default answer. ...

If you follow this rule, the things you do say yes to will be the things you are most excited about. You will be free to give these things much more time and energy because the yes things will be the things that really matter.
6. Patrick pointed me to Derek Sivers, who tells us:
Those of you who often over-commit or feel too scattered may appreciate a new philosophy I'm trying: If I'm not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, then say no.
7. Adam Dachis of Lifehacker wrote a long post on how to say no, including these bits:
If you're reading this post you probably have a problem saying no — the same problem I used to have until I learned how wonderful not helping people can be. But in all seriousness, saying no is about respecting your own time and making sure you're not spreading yourself too thin. ...

There's one more thing you should always remember: don't remove "yes" from your vocabulary.
8. And when it comes to saying no, I always like to give the last word to Miss Manners:
Rather than give reasons for declining, which, as you know, will be countered, just keep restating your inability to accept: “You are so kind to ask me, but I’m so sorry, I can’t.”

Why not?

“I’m afraid I’m busy then.”

What are you doing?

“I have other commitments.”

What are they?

“Other commitments. You are so kind to ask me, but ...”

Related Posts
Miss Manners: How to Say No
The Importance of Saying No: Two Perspectives
Yet Again: Learning to Say No


Claire Josefine said...

And there's a good reason (one of many) for saying no when you mean it. If people know that you will be honest with them, they are able to relax and feel safe because they know they can trust you. It's an icky feeling when you realize someone said yes to you when they didn't want to. So saying no is about more than respecting ourselves, it's about respecting others, too.

That being said, I have a personal philosophy of saying yes unless my gut says no. It's how I navigate my way through this journey called Life.

Marcie Lovett said...

Love those tweets, Jeri!

In The Clutter Book, I talk about “the authentic no." Instead of saying that you’re not sure or you’ll have to think about it, just say “no.” You can come up with a reason, if you want, but you don’t have to make it elaborate and you don’t have to make excuses.

The next time someone suggests you participate in an activity that isn’t a priority for you, I suggest trying one of these responses:

* I’m not able to take on another project at this time.

* I wouldn’t be able to give it the time it deserves, but I can recommend someone else who might be able to help.

* I can’t chair the program, but I can work for two hours at the event.

I think that people often agree to things because they want other people to like them. People will still like you, even if you do say "no" occasionally.

Jeri Dansky said...

Claire, I bet your gut reactions are well-tuned, and keep you from over-committing. But you're right, of course; saying "yes" is important, too!

Marcie, I'm totally with you on saying "no" right away, when you know that's the answer you need to give. (Sometimes you really do need to think about it.)

Melanie Dennis said...

Amen! I am going to adopt the "If I'm not saying Hell Yeah (even one the inside) then the answer is no.

Anonymous said...

Saying no is something I am learning to do myself - but I do NOT think any version of "I have to take a pass on this one" is a good way to say no. I have been on the receiving end of this and it really leaves me cold and rather resentful of the person. It sounds VERY arrogant and unfriendly to my ears. Of course, if you never want to do anything a particular person asks you - then it doesn't matter what you sound like.

Saying "I'm sorry, I'm really too busy right now" is not really apologizing or even justifying why you are saying no. Its just being polite!

Jeri Dansky said...

Anonymous, that's interesting. "I'm sorry, I have to take a pass on this one" sounds about the same as "I'm sorry, I'm too busy right now" to my ears.

It's probably not the wording I'd use myself — it just doesn't sound like me — but I don't think I'd mind hearing it.

Perhaps the tone of voice makes a difference?