The art of saying no

May 3, 2017

Written By

Tabitha Dumas

I wish I could do all the things I want to do, help all the people I want to help and serve in all the ways I want to serve. But I can’t and neither can you.

The art of saying no

Over and over again, I have said “yes” to something and lived to regret it.

I’ve learned some hard-won lessons over the years and I hope they can bolster your resolve when it comes time to say “no.” And, yes, the time WILL come (probably tomorrow).

1. People will always ask you for more.

Whether I’m helping a friend with her kids, serving on a committee or volunteering at church, once I show up the first time it is a guarantee that more will be asked of me.

You know how it goes….if you want something done, ask someone who’s already getting stuff done! Busy people are the best people to ask when you need help.

The problem is, once people know that you’re willing and capable, they will come to you first when they need something more. Particularly if you are also reliable and talented, watch out! You will never be left alone.

2. The people mentioned above are not responsible for your level of involvement–you are.

YOU have the right to decide what you will or won’t be involved in, right?

So don’t get it in your head that people are looking out for you and protecting against you getting overwhelmed.

I wrote about it here: My busyness is my fault

-It's no one else's job to monitor your busyness levels.- -Tabitha Dumas

Imagine a committee in need of someone to head up a new task force. Your name comes up. “Noooo, she’s already doing enough.” That will never happen, so don’t expect it to. They WILL ask–so be prepared to answer.

3. Every small commitment will be bigger than you initially think.

It seems so simple when you agree to it…until you add in the meetings across town, the scheduling conflicts, the time away from your family, buying supplies with your own money, extra planning sessions, communication break-downs, the time to write and reply to emails back and forth…and the list goes on.

Before you decide to do it, try to anticipate the full scope of the project and all the ways that it can steal more time from you than you think it will.

Don’t be naive when they describe how little time and energy it will require–remind yourself that it will ALWAYS be more.

4. Remember that every “no” is also a “yes.”

There are 24 hours in the day. When you say “no” to an opportunity, you are saying “yes” to more family time, “me time” or time spent on a different priority.

If you need extra motivation for saying “no,” remind yourself of your biggest “yes” to motivate yourself. If you absolutely want to enjoy more time with your spouse, hold an image of a lovely date night together in your mind when you have to give that “no” so you don’t back down.

5. The world will keep spinning without your involvement.

Several years ago, I was serving in a nearly full-time capacity within our local church as well as running a home-based business, keeping up with a toddler and trying to manage my home and family. Suffering a miscarriage gave me a major wake-up call: I was stretched too thin and needed to re-prioritize!

My husband and I got radical: we stepped down from all of our leadership positions, sold my car and moved across town into a rental home five minutes from his place of work.

We basically took a year off from all of our obligations to rest, regroup and enjoy being a family. It was glorious.

And guess what? Our leaving was met with absolutely zero fanfare and everyone and everything kept right on going without us. No one even sent a card.

If you fear what would happen if you stepped back (or completely disappeared!) from your obligations, fear not–chances are, people will hardly notice and someone will easily take your place.

The art of saying no takes being strategic, firm and sometimes even ruthless. You’re worth it. You are fighting for your life.

Do YOU have a hard time saying “no?” What tactics help you stay strong and stick to your guns? Share!


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