Louise Thompson: Saying no confidently
S’up? You know life is getting busy when texts get answered with a “K” as an abbreviation to OK (really? We are abbreviating our most abbreviated abbreviations now?)
We are undeniably more connected to more people and more opportunities than at any other time in history. Which means there sure is a helluva lot to say yes to. Which is awesome! Unless of course it becomes totally overwhelming.
Have you noticed the recent creeping tide of late no shows, or “sorry can’t make it”s sent on the night? Super-involved detailed explanations to get out of things late in the piece? More yeah! (but ultimately nahs) than in yesteryear? I don’t think you are imagining it.
Many people are biting off more yeses than they can chew and then either becoming a frazzled, exhausted hot mess, or perpetually bailing at the last minute. Overwhelm and exhaustion are not good. Neither is messing other people’s time/heart/energy/attention around by giving a yeah when you really mean nah. The first disrespects you, and the second disrespects someone else.
Far better to own your no from the outset so other people know where they and their diary stand right and you can honour the needs of your own body to rest and recharge. They are often a whole lot less bothered than you think they will be and will more often than not welcome the early clarity.
So if your life is creaking under the weight of obligation, and you are continually saying yes when you actually mean “not on your Nellie”, here are five ways to gracefully decline and give good no:
1 “I am almost 100 per cent sure that I have something else on that day/time, I just can’t think what it is until I check my diary but I’m sure there’s something important. Tell you what, take me as a definite no, and if I can I’ll let you know.”
I call this the “98 per cent no”. It’s a firm no, so they know where they stand, but it does leaves the door slightly ajar if you change your mind, with the added bonus that they will be thrilled at your unexpected presence.
2 “I don’t make plans on Sundays” — is a bold choice and not for the faint of heart. It’s a definitive no alright, and it keeps the choice with you rather than being a reflection on the invite or inviter, in the same way that you would say “I don’t eat meat/kite surf/like Kim Kardashian”. It’s a strong and definitive no.
3 “Sorry, I’ve already got plans.” Notice how the plans are vague, and not shared. It’s a nice soft delivery, but with what is actually a very firm no. You are under no obligation to share or justify your plans: your time, your priorities, your decision.
4 “Thanks for thinking of me, but I can’t on this occasion. Have you spoken to Bob?” It’s respectful, it’s definitive and it also hands it off, with the added bonus that you are being solution-focused and helpful. Nicely played.
5 “Honestly, I’m just maxed out/exhausted/overwhelmed right now, sorry but I’m not going to be able to make it. I know you will understand. Have a great time!”
Authentic, and shows not just vulnerability BUT also that you are exercising great boundaries and self care. If you ask directly for understanding, you will pretty much always be rewarded with it.
Of course, saying no confidently and owning your no is a way of getting really clear about your priorities and where they really lie. No bad thing at all. Do your words match your true priorities? Get them lined up, master the social no and invest your time and energy where it counts. K?
Through her online Happiness programme “Wellbeing Warriors”, life coach Louise Thompson helps people unlock their happiest and healthiest life. Sign up at louisethompson.com and find more from Louise at bite.co.nz/wellbeing