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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Soapbox: How to Say "No"

Have you ever had that same struggle with the word "No" in response to being asked to do something?  Now I can say "No" to my children firmly and definitively without batting an eye.  It's part of parenting 101.  But when a church member or colleague, or even friend asks me to do something... it is a whole new ball game.  No matter how busy my schedule, how exhausted, or how firmly I have resolved NOT to take on anything new... the word "No" just doesn't seem to come out.  I admit it.  I am "No"-impaired!

Last Wednesday I said that I felt rewarded if I came away from an advice book with at least two concrete new strategies to try.  The book I was talking about last week [The Now Habit by Neil Fiore] gave me a second strategy... this one about how to say "No." for those of us who are "no-impaired." 

At first I thought his advice was foolish, a simple gimmick, a sneaky twist, or something else ineffective.  Like the slogan "just say no" I thought... it's not that easy!  ...But then I tried it.  To my shock it worked, and worked beautifully.  I actually did NOT agree to do the task.  Not only that, but the person who asked left feeling good about it, and so did I.

His trick?  Start by saying "Yes."  Not "Yes" and I will.  But continue after the "Yes" in a way that affirms the value of the request and end by saying that you cannot.  Huh?

Sally:  Can you come over to the house this Friday and have supper?
You: Yes, that sounds like it would be fun, but I'm afraid that I can't. Thank you for asking. Maybe another time.

Sam: Can we put you on the committee for the eighth grade graduation?
You: Yes, I can see that you need people for that committee, but that's not really something for me.  Good luck !

Advantages: You acknowledge the need, or the invitation, or the value, but you still say that you cannot or will not say yes.  It doesn't close the door, it merely says no.  It gives you a moment to fight the knee jerk reaction of a quick "Yes" [that is inevitably followed by hours of regret and self-flagellation for being such a wimp]. For those of us who are "No"-impaired it can be a first step to learning that "No" can indeed be a complete sentence.

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