Achieving Life Balance: How To Say No

Just listen to your heart. That’s what I do. Napoleon Dynamite

Saying no doesn’t always come easy.  Whether it’s your manager flooding you with last-minute-i-need-this-yesterday assignments, or your kid wanting to go to the mall NOW – there are times you say yes when you really want to say no.

Why do you do it? Why do you keep doing things for others and forget about what you want?  Has it been so long since you’ve considered what you want that you don’t even know any more?

Do you feel tired, restless, taken advantage of, or unhappy? Are you afraid to answer the phone because you know someone wants something from you and you can’t say no?

Doing something begrudgingly is not good for you. When you give of your time, emotions, and talents, it should stem from a sincere desire to want to do good, meet a need, or invest in someone’s future.

When you are overworked, stretched to the max, and leave little time for meeting your own need for recreation, and restoration, you are teetering on the edge of physical exhaustion and mental decline.

Excessive, prolonged stress is linked to burnout, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and more really bad stuff.

Seek balance in your life. Take a good look at what you’ve been doing this week and see if there may be some things you should have said no to. Next time you feel that twinge in your gut, listen to it! The majority of people will understand a no. And if they don’t, then they just showed you their true self.

If you say yes when you really want to say no, try one of these suggestions.

Decline with grace. You can be nice, and feel honored if you were selected for a cool opportunity. You can’t say yes to every request or adventure, even if it sounds fun.  Hey, good to hear from you!  I really appreciate you thought of me for this assignment, but I will need to decline at this moment.  Maybe later down the road when things quiet down for me. Thanks for understanding.

Compromise. A sleepover sounds like fun! But not tonight. Let’s look at the calendar and pick another date that will work.  How about I take you kids out for ice-cream instead?

Advise an alternative. Often a person truly doesn’t know what else to do, it can be hard to problem solve your own dilemmas.  I can’t give you a ride to work. Are you near a bus route?  Have you considered using Uber? Is there a car pool you can find? Do you have a friend from church or your exercise class that can help?

Stall. If you really aren’t sure what to do, buy yourself time. Don’t be too quick to decline an opportunity. Saying yes can be a strategic move and may open a door to a rewarding path.  I can’t give you an answer this minute.  Let me think about it and I will get back to you.  How can I reach you, and when do you need my answer by?

Pass.  Just say no. Be nice, grateful, with the response nothing more than a simple, I’m sorry but I can’t help you.

Skip the details of why you can’t do something.  It’s too much blah blah blah. People don’t have the time to hear the why, they’ve got to go down their list of people, and you can be sure you probably weren’t their first call, and definitely not their last hope.

After you say no, don’t fret about it. We are so afraid of hurting feelings or letting a friend down that we end up second guessing ourselves and feel guilty for saying no. Don’t feel guilty for wanting balance in your life.  Plus think of how your (true) friend would feel if he found out you said yes  though your heart wasn’t in it.

Give it a try.  Next time someone asks if you can do the coffee run, if you can babysit, or if you can host Thanksgiving dinner, say,

 Thanks for thinking of me, but I need to pass. 

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Kathy

I've been a Family Nurse Practitioner since 1991. My most memorable patient was Meinhardt Raabe, the Munchkin Coroner from the Wizard of Oz. I now practice in Addiction Medicine and recently published Hepatitis C Quick Start: A guide for the clinician.

4 thoughts on “Achieving Life Balance: How To Say No”

    1. Absolutely! I knew there was a reason I was compelled to write this today, thank you Rachele for the wonderful feedback -Kathy

  1. I also needed this advice today Kathy, thank you. And now I am reminded that I never followed up with you on our messaging from last week. Blaming it on too much on my plate. Terrible excuse but I know you’ll forgive me. 🙂 I hope everything turned out ok.

    1. Hey Lori! Everything did turn out ok, and I learned a great deal from the experience. With all that you do, a more than full plate is the truth, not an excuse, forgiveness not needed (but I would give it to you in a heartbeat!) . I adore you Lori, and please restore your soul with some wisely chosen “no’s”.

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