Creating a to-don’t list felt good, didn’t it? By ridding your daily agenda of those less-than-important tasks once and for all means that you now have more time to pursue the things you’d rather be doing, with the people you’d want to do them with. Right?
Maybe you’d rather spend the evening solo instead of catching up with your girlfriends at a bar. Maybe you’re prefer to get takeout on the weekends, instead of cooking for everyone in the house. Maybe you don’t want to take on that project at work because you’re already up to your eyeballs in deadlines and monthly reports.
Maybe you should just say no.
It can be difficult to tell someone that you can’t (or don’t want to) do something; research from the University of California in San Francisco shows that the more difficulty you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression.
“Regularly overextending yourself forces you to put your own needs behind others requests, says Pedram Shojai, an Eastern medicine expert, and author of The Urban Monk.
Dr. Travis Bradberry, psychologist and co-author of the bestselling book Emotional Intelligence 2.0, agrees that saying no can be a major challenge for most, but by employing a few simple strategies, you can minimize personal stress, increase productivity and actually improve relationships with the people you’re turning down.
Think of your yes
Every opportunity that you pass on is actually your way of saying yes to some other thing that you’d prefer to do or something more important to you in the long run. So when it feels easier to give in than take a stand, just think of your long run. If joining the social committee at work means spending even less time with your kids or family, focusing your attention on this fact will embolden you to say no and keep your priorities straight.
Sleep on it
If you’ve got a big decision to make, even if you feel like saying yes take or ask for a day to think on it before providing an answer. It’s a lot easier to say no once you’ve had time to consider all angles and review your commitments – and if the situation in question is a realistic or beneficial addition to your schedule. If not, taking extra time will also give you a chance to come up with the best way to say no.
Soften the blow
Buffering your no with a positive way to let someone down without crushing them entirely. For example, if your boss asks you to work on weekends and you have prior (important) engagements, explain the reasons you’re unable to work the weekend, then follow up by confirming your commitment your work by asking if there are other times or ways you can contribute.
Make sure you’re actually saying “no”
In the act of softening the blow, people often diminish the power of no completely by using phrases like, “I don’t think I can” or “I’m not certain,” – limp phrases that confuse people, and could be considered yes. When it’s time, just say no.
Be prepared to repeat yourself
If you say no and receive pushback, hold firm to your resolve and repeat yourself. Unfortunately, people are taken aback by a no, and in some cases, you may have to say it more than once to get your point across. If you offered an explanation with your original response, you can repeat this explanation or just say no again. You don’t owe anyone your time, money, insights or action. It’s your right to say no to anything you don’t want to do.
If you need some help sticking to your guns, here’s a great story from economist John Galbraith. In his autobiography, A Life in Our Times, he wrote about his housekeeper Emily Gloria wilson, who apparently was rather proficient at saying no.:
It had been a wearying day, and I asked Emily to hold all telephone calls while I had a nap. Shortly thereafter the phone rang. (Then-president) Lyndon Johnson was calling from the White House.
“Get me Ken Galbraith. This is Lyndon Johnson.”
“He is sleeping, Mr. President. He said not to disturb him.”
“Well, wake him up. I want to talk to him.”
Her response? “I’m sorry, Mr. President, but I work for Mr. Galbraith, not for you.”
Forget the scrolling. Find all 21 ways to Rock Your Resolutions right here.