Have you heard of radKIDS? It's a terrific program that not only tells, but teaches kids to set powerful boundaries to avoid being the victim of bullying, exploitation and other violence against them. The essential learning behind the radKIDS program is pretty basic: Teach kids that they have the right to say NO and that nobody has a right to hurt them AND what to say and do if someone tries. Period.
Saying no helps our kids stay safe and avoid violence, so we them to feel empowered to say NO in those situations. Yet we are often reluctant to do so ourselves, despite that saying no would protect us from negative forces such as stress, guilt and overwhelm.
If you have trouble saying no, here are five ways to help you do it:
“Thank you for asking, but I'm going to pass.”
This is the simplest way to gracefully bow out of something you don’t want to or just can’t do. You acknowledge the person for asking, but you maintain your boundary politely without explaining why. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. No is enough.
“I know you want my help with X and I’m happy to do it, however I won’t be able to until/unless…”
This method is effective – even at work -- because you’re not saying no forever, you’re saying no right now, and conditionally. By communicating the conditions that need to be present before you can commit, you create timing, a scenario, situation or environment where saying yes becomes possible for you.
“I really can’t commit to that right now, but have you thought about…”
This method is effective because you’re offering a solution however that solution doesn’t involve you. So you’re attempting to help by collaborating but you escape the commitment of saying yes.
“I’m really not the best fit…”
If you run a small business, this is a great way to say no to potential new client work that sends up a red flag. If your gut says a potential new client will be high maintenance, won’t pay on time, or is offering you work that’s outside your scope of expertise, you do them a service by saying no because you’re just not a good fit. A bonus for the other party is to refer them to someone you believe would be a better fit.
“It’s against my policy…”
This is my favorite one when responding to requests that I have no interest in whatsoever, such as new business opportunities. When someone asks me to take a look at their direct marketing business opportunity, I always whip out my policy. My response is, “I’m flattered you think I’d be great at that, however I have a policy to never split my focus. I’ve done it before with bad results so now I just won’t do it.” Hey it’s not my fault. Blame my policy.
Pick out your favorite tactics and practice them in small ways at first to get accustomed to saying no. If, after a few weeks, you still have a hard time saying no, remember this: No is a complete sentence and you don't owe an explanation unless you choose to give one. When you say YES when you really mean NO, you set yourself up to be over-committed, resentful, exhausted and you can’t give the best of yourself.
Choose carefully where you spend your time and you’ll be happier, more successful, and most important you’ll keep your personal integrity intact.