I previously wrote on the “Power of No” for a spirited women’s magazine. An avid event planner and community leader, “I found myself in control of a lot of things,” I admitted in the article, “but I had lost control of my health, my sanity, and myself in the process.”
In confessing such, I could sense a resounding “Amen!” from the readers as we collectively shook our heads for being at the center of our own demise.
While I knew I needed to say no for my own life balance and self-care, uttering the word always made me feel so guilty. (Speaking of, is there anyway to exchange these guilt trips for frequent flyer miles?? Tehe). The guilt was especially penetrating when I had to deliver it to a friend or family member.
To curb the guilt of no, I felt like I needed an excuse, a really good one.
The problem with excuses is three-fold: A. My personal life is private, and I should not have to share it with you in order to justify my no. B. I never think my honest reasons are quite good enough, so I feel compelled to embellish and flat out lie. However, this poses another problem, C. I now have to worry myself to keep up with the lie I told you, so I don’t get caught! All of that is just too much work!
So, instead of being a stressed and overwhelmed Yes Woman, I started practicing how to say “no” in various situations.
After a few years of trial and error, here are my best ones!
9 ways to say no without feeling guilty afterwards
1// No, but thank you for thinking of me.
I say this when the request would be too much of a sacrifice on my end. Sure, it’s nice to be thought of. But it’s nicer to spend my Saturday morning doing laundry, so I don’t run out of drawers by the middle of next week!! If I can’t see how the project will benefit me personally or professionally, it may not be the right time for me to get involved.
2// No, but I’m so proud of you for taking this on!!
Congratulations are always in order for someone taking a big step, especially if you don’t have to take that big step with her!! Whether she wanted you to edit her dissertation or volunteer for a youth program at church—serve up a healthy helping of cartwheels + confetti, and step back with grace.
3// No, however, I’d love to connect you with so-and-so, who is perfect for what you’re looking for. May I share about the opportunity with her?
I use this when I want to put somebody on. I have friends and business associates who are absolutely FIRE! I’m talking business coaching, women’s empowerment, marketing, brand development, event consultation, financial counseling, massage therapy, mental health therapy, inspirational speakers, and more. I try to stay true to this advice from the article,
“…just because you are capable of doing something, doesn’t mean you should.”
Instead of overwhelming myself with agreements that would weigh me down, I refer the business to a friend who deserves and would appreciate the exposure. (It’s called “building the community,” Sis! Buy a hammer, be a hammer, or get out of the hammer’s way! Just something I say in my head, tehe).
4// No, but that sounds like an amazing project. What inspired you to do this?
This is great when you respect the person or the activity, but you just prefer not to have a role. Plus, people love talking about themselves. Asking about the project’s background gives the requestor and open door to gab about her awesome event, project, program, or whatever it is. Plus, you’re the nice human being who thought enough to ask about it and listen. WARNING: Just don’t betray your initial instinct and get sucked into helping out. Listen, spread love, and move on.
5// No, but I can certainly let others know about it. Do you have a flyer I can post?
If the the event sounds nice, but it’s just not for you, you may offer this response. Sharing a flyer on Facebook or via text is a quick trade-off. However, only offer your marketing support if you’re truly willing to do so. As mentioned earlier, growing noses and flaming pants can get a bit stressful.
6// No, but I will be cheering you on from the sidelines.
This is a great one if you don’t really have the time or desire to be connected to the project, but you want to leave the interaction on a high note. Letting the person know you support her curbs the sting of “no,” without committing you to much afterwards. You may choose to cheer by lifting up a prayer, liking or commenting on a photo, or sending good energy into the atmosphere. Whatever you choose, just make sure it’s out of congeniality, and not obligation.
7// No, but will you be doing something similar in the future? Please keep me in mind.
This is a great response if you just can’t expend the time and energy at present, but you’d like to be considered for future opportunities. You may need to do a few more follow-up’s in between to nurture the potential working relationship, but it’s worth it if the opportunity is connected to a personal or professional interest. So exchange contact information with them, and mark a few times in your calendar to follow-up.
8// No, but I would love to assist in “this” way.
Sometimes, I find that people ask me to do things, just because they think I’d be good at it. However,
I don’t want to work in my “good,” I want to work in my gift!
If you see a place where your gift fits in, make suggestions in that direction instead. If only a door stands between you and Opportunity, stop waiting around for her to knock. Go ahead and knock on that door for yourself! Use the occasion to suggest your skillset, training, experience, and expertise in a way that would both benefit the you and the person or organization posing the request.
9// No, thank you. *Plus a smile.*
When you’re really embracing of your value, you can just say no and leave it there. You may be able to squeeze in babysitting for your friend, but you just don’t feel like it. No excuses or explanations are needed for being true to yourself. Just give a polite and honest “no”, flash a sunny smile, and hug yourself a little tighter when you walk away.
Remember, “no” is not about what we’re not doing for others. It’s about what we are doing for ourselves. It’s about displaying self-control, self-awareness, and self-love. When you tap into the power of no, you create space for a more authentic, more purposeful, more meaningful yes.
What powerful “no phrases” have worked for you?
Add yours to the list by dropping a comment below.
Dr. Asha—speaker, educator, published author, and radio host—is aptly known as the Creator of Healthy Conversations. Her life purpose is to teach the busy and overwhelmed how to live life abundantly. She is an educational consultant and owner of the Temple Fit Company, LLC, and she is the director of Temple Fit Health, Inc. faith-based wellness nonprofit organization. Grab one of Dr. Asha’s recent books and book her for your upcoming program.