It is not a vulgar word or a long word like supercalifragilisticexpialidocious of Mary Poppins fame. A Wall Street Journal article (March 11, 2014) calls No a “tiny word, but tough to say.” Many years ago former First Lady Nancy Reagan had an anti-drug campaign with the slogan “Just Say No.” Sounds like a great idea but it’s very difficult to comply when any of us is surrounded by peer pressure urging us to say yes.
Saying no is especially difficult when the request is legitimate or when we want to please the person who asks. When asked to help with a worthy cause, donate money to charity, or help a friend – or even a stranger, many of us say yes because we feel uncomfortable or guilty if we decline. We value kindness and being helpful. We don’t want to reject others or risk hurting a relationship. Some of us are people-pleasers who want to be liked so we make ourselves available to anyone who calls. These may be admirable characteristics but they can create problems. I have a friend who rarely sets boundaries. He revels in the opportunities and projects that he has been offered and accepted. This is affirming and ego-building. But periodically he gets overwhelmed because he failed to say no. Sound familiar?
None of us was created to meet everyone’s requests. Even Jesus set boundaries (e.g. Mark 1:35-38). Each of us haslimited time and energy. These need to be rationed. Saying yes to one thing means that we are forced to say no to another. Our families, closest relationships and health all suffer when we let other people set our agendas. How, then, do we say no?
- Set your priorities. I don’t accept committee assignments or speaking invitations apart from my specialties.
- Clarify your values. Never agree to something that you think is wrong or unwise.
- Delay your answer. This gives you time to think how to say no.
- Avoid peer pressure situations.
- Give reasons for saying no, but avoid debates about your decision. These often lead to more pressure.
- Don’t say “Maybe later” unless you mean it. These words insure that you will be asked again.
What would you add? How do you help yourself or others to say no?