Five Ideas for How to Say No

How to Say No

Feeling overwhelmed? The problem is never that you “don’t have enough time.” After all, everyone gets the same 24 hours each day.

Just consider: maybe you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. You may find that feeling overwhelmed is partly a matter of your priorities. Especially when you’re an online student, you have to decide what matters and where to invest your time. To stay in control of your 24 hours, sometimes you have to say no.

Many people agree to do too much, because they want to be liked. They’re afraid that if they say no, they might be seen as lazy, unreliable, or stingy with their time.

True, people who constantly refuse everything may end up with fewer friends. The trick is to say no skillfully. Here are five ways to say no that will make you more effective:

1. Wait before you answer. If saying yes is your default response, then set a timer. Give yourself some breathing room for a couple hours to consider what you would be committing to, and whether it fits in with your goals. Instead of yes, try saying: “Let me check my schedule, and I’ll follow up with you later today.”

[Tweet "Let me check my schedule and get back to you."]

2. Don’t say maybe. Overly polite people love to say, “Maybe I’ll drop by,” even when they know they won’t. Saying maybe only gives you guilt and stress. Say it too often to the same people, and they’ll have a hard time trusting you. A better alternative is to say, “Sorry, I won’t be able to make it. Hope you have fun!”

3. Don’t explain. When you say yes, do you explain why? “I’m accepting your invitation because I have nothing to do that night, and I want to be helpful.” Of course not! The same holds true for saying no. Once you decide yes or no, that’s all that matters. Don’t put your thought process on display for others to judge. Besides, when people make a request or send an invitation, they’re more concerned with their project or event. They neither need nor want to know why you’re declining, because they’re already thinking about whom to invite next. Say it like this: “I have another event that night and won’t be able to attend.”

4. Acknowledge people. Sometimes we say yes out of friendship or loyalty to a person, group, or cause. It’s possible to honor them and their project, and even express your enthusiasm without agreeing to a job you’re not going to do. Try it: “Sounds like an awesome cause. Good for you! I’m sorry that I won’t be able to participate.”

5. Offer an alternative (but only if you mean it). If you don’t feel like going out tonight, offer to meet up next weekend. Suggest the names of other people who could contribute to the project. Try: “I can’t take on this project right now. But I know a lady who’s done similar work before. Can I give you her phone number?”

Rather than allow other people set your schedule, define your priorities. When you get a request that doesn’t line up with your goals, have the confidence to say no. Your time belongs to you!

Written by Michael Mussman
Michael is Editor of Forward Thinking, the Ashford University blog.

Photo credit:"Talktothehand". Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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