Learning to Say NO!

(Image Courtesy of Sharon Young: Thanks Sharon!)

Learning to say “No” is not always easy.  People ask us to agree to things all the time.

“Will you help out on this committee?”

“Can we get together soon?”

“Will you watch my kids, paint my house, be my friend, volunteer your time, follow me and my cause, buy crap from my kids (well you get the idea).”

I am beginning to hear what I call the “soft yes” in response to these multiple requests. The “soft yes” isn’t really a yes, it is a “no” veiled in terms that are our attempt to politely decline, but we don’t feel comfortable saying it.  I find myself doing this at times and recently this is what I am hearing:

“I guess I can.”

“If I have to.”



How many times have you agreed to something where your heart really wasn’t into it, and you would have preferred to say “no”?  In striking a balance between your life, your work, your family, and just being you, there will be things you need to say no to.  You cannot be all things to all people, and the over-committed life is not a pleasant one (for you or for those around you).

Where do we start?  In his book, Magnificent Mind at Any Age, Dr. Daniel Amen states that the inability to say no (or impulsively say yes) creates an overwhelmed state where you become immersed with other people’s priorities that distract you from your own goals. He offers us a way to reply and encourages us to learn the following phrase when someone asks us to do something:

“I need to think about it.  If I want to do it, I will get back to you.”

Wow.  Simple yet effective.  That one phrase may help bring needed balance to your life. Be prepared, if you have been on “automatic yes” or “soft no” and still agreeing in the end, this may feel strange to those around you.  It is funny, just recently I realized how much I have been giving a “soft no” to someone who has been trying to get together with me, but the truth is I should have just said no instead of stringing them along and rescheduling the meeting.

Try it out, let me know how it works.  This may bring some needed balance to your life, and let you find yourself, not just serve others.  Use it well, and let me know how it goes.  I have a hard phone call to make, but it would have been easier if I had used this phrase in the beginning.

“The art of leadership is saying no, not yes.  It is very easy to say yes.”  Tony Blair

6 thoughts on “Learning to Say NO!

    1. Jon,

      Working with you is like whitewashing Tom Sawyer’s fence! If it means we get to hang out, I am in for deck building. I say we do an Amish barn raising and get everyone to come and help!

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