A while back I wrote 5 Ways to Help You Say No. My first step of advice was, “Be True to You,” which is all about understanding your own priorities. Having those down is a huge coup when it comes to being able to say no.
Since then I’ve had several people ask me to take a step back and shed some light on how to do just that. It’s not always so easy to pinpoint our own priorities. Most of us, women especially, are programmed to be helpful. We care, and so we want to be accommodating and share our talents and expertise with others to make their lives better.
All too often, this takes the form of saying, “Yes.” Yes to projects for which we don’t have time, yes to commitments that squeeze out our own priorities, yes to undertakings that leave us sleep deprived. This doesn’t mean we are weak. Quite the opposite. It’s how we problem-solve for others, by shouldering their burdens.
It doesn’t have to be that way; here are my action steps for knowing our own priorities to guide our decision making.
1. Make time for you. Sounds trite, but these happy-isms get repeated for a reason. Sometimes we can get so lost in the activities of everyday life that we forget to pay attention to ourselves. Change this habit; make time every day for you..even if you have to lock yourself in the bathroom to scribble in a journal (aka your smartphone’s notepad) or play your favorite songs WAY too loud in your earbuds while your kids gawk…do it. For you.
2. Recognize your value. This is true on so many levels. Why is someone asking for your help? It’s because you bring talent to the table…you work hard and have a crazy skill set and so much all-around awesomeness that you’re the go-to person for many. But turn this around: YOU have VALUE. You. Have. Value. You matter to a lot of people, yourself included, and you can’t be everything to everyone. Just understanding this will help you know when a no is appropriate.
3. Now, right down the top ten things that bring you joy. We can all fill out the ones at the top together; they are a given. Loved ones. Loved ones. Loved ones. So there the top three; what are the next seven? These have to be about YOU. And no cheating- no, “Spending time with loved ones.” Not even, “Taking photographs of loved ones.” Those top three spots are for them, the rest have to be about you separate from them. Dig deep. It’s there.
4. Who is asking for help? Considering the source is not only valid to examine, it’s a critical judgement call. Is the person asking for your help a family member that relies on your kindness? An overburdened single parent coworker afraid to say no themselves? Or is it that attention-seeking PTA mom that takes credit for doing so much “all by themselves” because they delegate without giving credit? Say yes to taking your elderly aunt to the hair dresser so she can get her monthly “hair-do.” But say no to the neighbor who joins the car pool every year yet always asks for you to cover her shifts.
5. Think about the why. Why do you NOT say no? Are you concerned you won’t look like a team player? Is being kind part of your self image? Are you afraid of a negative reaction from someone if you say no? There are so many reasons we say yes reflexively even if we shouldn’t…take some time to consider why you inclined to say yes. Think about your own motivation; is it healthy? If not, no just might be the right answer.
I’d love it if you shared in the comments one of your own personal stories…like when you said no and are proud of yourself, or when you said yes and regret it. But, you know. It’s okay to say no.