Are you tired and overwhelmed? Distracted? Disappointed in yourself? Feeling used and used up? There is a good chance you’re saying “yes” to too many things and people. True, you have a part to play in life. False. You have to play every part in the play of life. It seems impossible to find guilt-free reasons to say no. Too many times, we try to do it all because somewhere along the way, we fell into the trap of believing if we’re not saying “yes,” then we’re selfish or lazy or replaceable or aren’t good enough. Author, Lysa TerKeurst, stated in her book, The Best Yes:
“If I want things about my life to change, if I want to change the way I use the world’s two most powerful words, yes and no, it won’t happen just by trying harder or dreaming more or even working myself to death. I have to change my approach to the way I make decisions. The same patterns will produce the same habits. The same habits will lead to the same decisions. The same decisions will keep me stuck.”
“I feel like I’m doing so many things that I’m not doing any of them well.”
Have you ever said that? It’s possible you’ve got too many irons in the fire. This article comes from a place of too many irons in the fire more times than I care to admit.
What will people think if I say “no?” Will they still ask in the future? What kind of woman says “no” to that? Would it really hurt to say “yes?” I don’t want to hurt their feelings by saying “no” or put more work on them if I say “no.” I don’t have a good reason to say “no.” So, ok, I’ll do it.
I’m guilty on more than one occasion of these thoughts being my basis for decision-making, and so many times I regret the time I wasted because I couldn’t say “no.” Somewhere along the way, we were taught to only say “no” to the bad things in life but to be a well-balanced woman; sometimes, you have to say “no” to good things, too.
Here are 4 ways I’ve learned to let “no” become a powerful word in my vocabulary. (These can apply to your boss, friends, children, or any other good area of your life.)
1. Say “no” because of time.
You’re already trying to use your time wisely and invest in what matters right now. Instead of feeling guilty for not being able to find the time to do more, make the most of your time now.
Evaluate your why. The biggest fear we should have is being successful at something that doesn’t matter. Matter to who? You have to decide that for yourself. It all depends on your season of life as well as your moral compass.
If you’re a spiritual person, ask these questions, “Will this ‘yes’ or ‘no’ have eternal value? Will I succeed at something that doesn’t matter to God?” If you’re a wife and a mom, “Will this ‘yes’ or ‘no’ impact my family? Will it pull me away from them?” Single woman, “Will this ‘yes’ or ‘no’ put me in a position I’m not comfortable with? Will it lead me down a path toward the things that matter to me and my dreams for the future?”
Saying “no” to another activity your child asks to participate in is okay, too. If it takes away from the things that matter to your family, a “no” is usually the right call to make.
To be a well-balanced woman, sometimes you have to say “no” to good things, too.
2. Say “no” because of physical, financial, spiritual, or emotional impacts.
You have to assess the situation and gather as much information as possible before making a decision. With our children, we have to say “no” for these same reasons. Can it harm me, them, or someone else physically, financially, spiritually, or emotionally? We must model this for them while they’re growing up.
I believe one of the best things we can teach our children is how to handle receiving a “no” and how to say it. They will hear “no” from many people throughout their lives and need to know how to deal with that respectfully. They’re also going to need to learn how to say it for various reasons. How can we expect them to say “no” and mean it if we don’t practice it ourselves? “No” responses can turn into better opportunities and can also help establish healthy boundaries in relationships.
3. Say “no” and provide creative alternatives.
A friend of mine once had to tell her daughter she couldn’t go to prom. A lot of factors went into the decision, and she and her husband had to make a decision that was best for their child. They courageously and confidently said “no” but provided a creative alternative.
They threw the most fascinating and cost-efficient “prom” at home, complete with cake, punch, hair, and makeup, and of course, the dress. My friend took a pivotal experience that could have ended in a pity party on one end and turned it into one of the most memorable nights of her daughter’s life.
It became a family affair. It might not have been the most popular or socially acceptable thing to do according to everyone else, but that night they taught their daughter and the rest of the family that “no” doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. It isn’t about being selfish. Saying “no” takes courage and confidence and can have a safe and healthy connotation if said in the right spirit.
4. Say “no” to fight your desire to control.
Sometimes we say “yes” because we think we can change or fix a situation when in reality, it’s out of our control and not for us to worry about. Only give concern to what you can actually control. As women, we like to say “yes” because we think we’re the only ones that can do it the best or the “right” way.
Take caring for our children, for instance. My husband and I have pretty different ways of running the house throughout the day. The result is always the same—the kids are still alive, fed, clothed (sometimes), and we’re all in our right minds (most of the time). But the carnage or debris in the kitchen or around the floors of the house might tell a different story. He didn’t do it as I would have, but he did it, and I got to do something else instead of adding all of that to my already long to-do list.
Saying “no” takes courage and confidence and can have a safe and healthy connotation if said in the right spirit.
If all else fails, just say “no” and let that be it.
There are truly only a few people in this world that need an explanation for our decisions. Again, it depends on the situation, but sometimes all you need to say is a confident “no” and move on.
A friend of mine has said that when a good thing becomes an ultimate thing, then it becomes a bad thing. There are seasons of yes and seasons of no. Continuously evaluate, reflect, and adjust.
Saying “no” can give someone else a chance to say “yes.” Not every offer, ask, plea or assignment is yours to take. Sometimes we are so quick to say “yes” we forget that our “no” could be someone else’s big break. Their time to shine.
Pressure, guilt, or default are not good reasons to commit. Respectfully declining will allow you space to flourish and thrive in the things you ultimately decide are good and right to take on. Many times we carry and even complain about burdens or responsibilities that were never meant to be ours.
So, friends, remember these reasons the next time you need to say “no,” and stand firm in your decision!
Don’t miss this episode of This Grit and Grace Life podcast: Is Your Life Out of Balance? – 011!