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Saying “no”…and “yes”


This week I read a post on Zen Habits titled, “7 Simple Ways to Say ‘No.’ ”  Guest blogger Celestine Chua lists these ways to say “No.” (Follow the link to read more about each way to say “No.”)

  1. “I can’t commit to this as I have other priorities at the moment.”
  2. “Now’s not a good time as I’m in the middle of something. How about we reconnect at X time?”
  3. “I’d love to do this, but …”
  4. “Let me think about it first and I’ll get back to you.”
  5. “This doesn’t meet my needs now but I’ll be sure to keep you in mind.”
  6. “I’m not the best person to help on this. Why don’t you try X?”
  7. “No, I can’t.”

Many people–the ones who habitually say “Yes”–might find it helpful to have concrete ways to say, “No.”  But there are others of us (and I include myself in this group) who are well-trained in the art of refusing requests, and who need instead to learn to say, “Yes.”

For both groups, the key is to create a moment to breathe, a pause between question and answer.  This moment allows a considered answer, rather than a reflexive one.  In this pause, we take stock of our resources and desires, and answer on that basis.  Do I want to do this?  Do I have what it takes to do this?

Here’s the list again, rewritten as seven ways to say “Yes.”

  1. “I can commit to this.  This is an important priority for me at the moment.” When you stop to breathe, you might discover that you are really passionate about the task you are being asked to do.
  2. “Now is a great time for this, as I’ve just let go of other commitments.  Let’s talk about how I get involved.” As you pause to reflect, you might realize that you do have time to accept this invitation.
  3. “I’d love to do this.” A brief moment of introspection might surprise you–you might actually enjoy the work you’re being asked to take on.
  4. “Let me think about it first and I’ll get back to you.” But this time, really mean it, and really get back to the person asking for your involvement.
  5. “This meets my needs right now, and I’m glad you asked me.” We all need things to do that make our lives meaningful, and if you stop to think about it, you may discover that you are at loose ends, and need something to bring purpose to your life.
  6. “I have skills and experiences that are a good match for this project.” If you care about the organization or cause in question, you may realize that you are exactly the right person for the task at hand.  Sometimes (and I’m not talking to you over-committers here) there is no one else for the job, and the organization or cause you care about really needs you.
  7. “Yes, I can.” I suspect that there’s a lot of no-saying that has deep roots in self-doubt.  Taking a moment to breathe before responding gives us time to remember that we do have things we’re good at, things about which we can say, “Yes, I can.”

I hope you’ll take the time to figure out if you’re a yes-sayer, or a no-sayer, and that you’ll begin the practice of taking a deep breath after someone asks you to do something.  Saying “yes” too much and saying “no” too much both have the same result:  things don’t get done, or don’t get done well.  What the world needs is people who fully commit to tasks, after honestly having considered their desires and resources.


3 thoughts on “Saying “no”…and “yes”

  1. Pingback: Reasons for living, taking relationships for granted, and more UU blogging « : The Interdependent Web

  2. I read somewhere that “no” is a complete sentence. It may be too abrupt or abrasive to some so I would use it carefully. Often we don’t have to give reasons for saying “no” , as though we have to apologize.

    • Interesting. Thinking about what it would be like to hear a one word “No” reply, it seems to me that it would feel abrupt–and that in some circumstances that might be appropriate. It would stop the person who asked in their tracks, and perhaps make them responsible for wondering what the reasons might be.

      I also wonder if there might be a gender (or other power) dynamic here. Those more used to wielding power might be more capable of answering, simply, “No.”

      Thanks for your thoughts, and the thoughts they prompted in me.

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