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Sometimes we need to say no… do you even know how to?

This blog is another requested topic… so here goes……

So do you sometimes get accused of always being “the nice guy/gal”?  You know… a people pleaser, always putting others before yourself, letting people literally and figuratively walk all over you…  always, always, always appearing happy on the outside, but perhaps, a little burned out, resentful and depressed on the inside????

One trap that a lot of the “nice guy/gals” gall into is always saying “yes” to every request that comes their way.  These “yes” folks are afraid that people will stop liking them if they say no.  By saying yes to everything, the Nice Guy/Gal piles on the obligations and dealings to his/her already busy day.  He/she ends up spreading themselves so thin that they can’t even fulfill the obligations they said yes to in the first place, which in a sadly funny, yet totally predictable turn of events causes the very people he/she are trying to impress, start being resentful.

Most people don’t realize that it is possible to have backbone and still be able to yes when appropriate (meaning you have time, energy, skill, etc.) and no when it is appropriate… (Meaning – no time, no energy, no skill, etc.).  This is really all about setting good boundaries (which I have written about numerous times).

But, if you have been having trouble saying no to people, here are some pointer on how to do it without coming off as a cad.  Remember these are just suggestions for the chronic “yes” sayer to start… sooner or later the no gets easier… but everyone needs a starting place.

  1. Don’t make the no personal.  Instead of making it seem like you are saying no because you don’t like the person, think their cause is crazy or their parties are just boring, just let them know you are simply “following the rules”.  By this I mean that your pre-set personal rules prohibit you from saying yes.  And, yes, you should have some personal “rules” or boundaries. Examples follow
  • I can’t come to the Polka Festival on Monday night because Monday night is always family night for us.
  • I can’t donate to your charity.  We’ve made a decision to set aside our charitable dollars for our church and the Red Cross.
  • I appreciate the invite, but I don’t date women with more than eleven cats.
  • I would have loved to hire you, you’ve got just the right personality for the position, but I already have another person chosen.
  • It would have been a great honor to speak at your convention; I’ve enjoyed attending it every year and have always been impressed with the presentations.  But I’ve just got too much on my plate at this time.
  • This was a very entertaining screenplay.  I really like how in the third scene the man-eating robot and the platypus become friends. But the studio is really concentrating on romantic comedies at this time.
  • I can’t referee at the game, but I will donate some food for the after celebration.
  • I can’t come on the scout trip, but I can volunteer at the pinewood derby this year.
  • Your newsletter is always so topnotch.  Even if I could have found time to crankout some articles for you, they wouldn’t have met the standard of quality you are known for.
  • Even if I had chaperoned the all-night lock in, I probably would have fallen asleep, leaving some kid to shoot his eye out with an air gun.
  • If you’re going for s simple, modern look on your webpage, then all these rainbows and unicorns in the background would distract from theat.  Let me show you some examples that may be more of what you are looking for.
  • You’ve got a chin that makes Jay Leno look like Paul Giamatti.  That haircut would only make it look even bigger… hmmmmmmmmm
  • I can’t give you an A on this paper.  But you are almost there.  Next time, include a stronger thesis statement and more supporting evidence and your grade will definitely improve.
  • Ok, and who would be the target market for a (let’s say) chest hair toupee?
  1. Let them know you wish you could say yes.  Letting someone know you sympathize with their request, but still can’t grant it, will soften the blow of the no.
  1. Show them that you thought it over before saying no.  Feeling like you’re getting the brush off can be just as hurtful as hearing “no”.  Show the person that you took the time to understand their request before turning it down.
  1. Offer “consolation prize”.  If you can’t fully grant someone’s request, think of a way you can still do something to help out.
  1. Show them that your “no” is really in their best interest.  You can take some of the sting out of your no by showing the person that having you on board wouldn’t have worked out anyway.
  1. Say no by helping the person say no to him/herself. Web designers, barbers and other creative understand the frustration of having clients request something they know will simply not look good or turn out well.  But if you say no outright, the client may become angry and defensive.  Instead, ask them about their goals and then kindly show them why their suggestions wouldn’t help them achieve it.
  1. Let them know what it would take to get a yes. Don’t make the situation seem hopeless if it’s not.
  1. Expose holes in their request.  If someone comes to you with an idea that is never going to go anywhere no matter whom they talk to or how they tweak it, it does him/her no good to sugarcoat your no.  But a “get out of here, nutso!” isn’t the way to go either.  Instead, ask them some questions that gently expose the holes in their plan.  Help them see for themselves how untenable their idea is.
  1. Just say no.  It turns out the DARE was right – sometimes you just need to “say no”.  If someone is wasting your time and doesn’t respect you, there is no need to soften your denial.  Tell them no and walk away.

While these pointers will help you soften the blow of a no, they should not be said with an equivocation or hemming and hawing.  While remaining polite and warm, you must also be firm and confident.  Say your piece and let that be that.  Don’t let someone guilt you into doing something by making you feel bad about your decision.  There is no pride to be had in saying yes, even to good causes, simply because you are too afraid to say no.  But you will find self-respect in making decisions that are in line with core values and priorities, regardless of what others think of you.

Yes, I am a recovering “yes – sayer”…. Coffee?

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