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How to Say No

piece of brown paper reading "no" sitting on black table surrounding by other papers

“Yes, of course I’ll help!” One of the kindest, yet most detrimental phrases out there.

Many of us truly want to be there for others any time they need help, and we hope they will do the same – but how realistic is this? While helping others is a great thing, it becomes a problem when we overcommit ourselves and say yes to every call for help we receive. “We all only have a limited amount of time and energy,” says Julie Bailey, Clinical Manager for Centerstone. “And with limited supplies of both, overcommitting will cause you to run out of one or the other.”

So does this mean we should never say “yes?” Absolutely not. Helping others puts good into the world and fosters connections between us. But, we need to be more mindful of where we offer our yes.

Valuing your “yes”

Before you do commit to helping someone, you should make sure it is within your capacity to actually accomplish – is it realistic? This requires self-awareness and intentionality.

Before even receiving requests, prioritize what is in the realm of requests to say yes to. This comes through focusing on what is important to you. “The key is really knowing your values,” says Julie Bailey. While you can still be flexible, know the kinds of things that you will actually be able to do, both practically/physically and mentally. If you have less things occupying your time and you are in a more relaxed season, you can be more open to different kinds of requests.

In a busier season, pay attention to potentially upcoming requests. If there is something in your ballpark of ability that you know may be approaching, it might be best to say no to other requests in anticipation of that one. Prioritizing your “yes” with these strategies will help you avoid the downfalls of overcommitment – sacrificing sleep, self-care, inner peace, and even physical health.

Kindly saying no

But what about the actual act of saying “no?” This can be the hardest part of this fight for inner peace. Kindly telling others no also requires self-awareness, on top of good communication. Here are a few tips for letting others down easy.

  • Communicate value. If someone is asking you for help, it’s probably for something important to them. When you say no, acknowledge that their request is valid and worth a person’s time to help them with.
  • Be honest about your capacity. Tell the other person that you really do not have the availability to do the task at the moment. Go deeper than simply saying, “I don’t have time,” but be honest that you can’t devote the necessary time to it or that it would put you completely out of balance if you did.
  • Talk about quality. A good phrase to use when saying no is, “I won’t do it justice.” This goes back to communicating value. Let them know that you’re not the right person for the job at this moment, and that you care about their success through quality work.
  • Redirect and give suggestions. You can continue communicating value by giving suggestions of other people who could help them accomplish their goal. Redirecting them to other resources and people shows them that you really do care about their needs, even if you’re not the one directly meeting them.

If you find yourself losing sleep over your relationship management and need extra support, Centerstone is here to help. Call us at 1-877-HOPE123 (877-467-3123) or visit centerstone.org/connect-with-us/ to get connected with care.

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