“No” is a tiny word that when used properly, can change everything. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the hardest words to say. How often have you been completely overwhelmed with family, kids, jobs, friends, hobbies, and school and still agreed to do one more thing? At the moment, it was easier to say yes and try to figure out how to do it than to just say no.
Often, saying no brings feelings of guilt and insecurity. We think that if we say no someone won’t like us as much or will think bad things about us. We worry that taking care of ourselves and our families first will be seen as selfish. For some of us, we might have been brought up believing that it was wrong to say no to certain requests.
If you’re like me, you’re probably feeling a little anxious even thinking about saying no. Don’t feel bad. Everyone struggles with it. People pleasers tend to struggle the most.
Learning how to say “no”
Sometimes we say yes because we don’t have the right words to say no. It’s simply easier to take on the extra task than to feel guilty while trying to explain why you don’t want to or can’t do something. Here’s a handy list of ways to say no:
- No, thank you.
- I won’t be able to help you with that, but I think I know someone who can.
- This project deserves more time and attention than I can manage right now.
- I can’t help you with that, but I could help you with something different.
- I can’t help right now, but I’ll let you know when I can.
When you choose to say no, don’t feel pressured to explain. You don’t have to justify why you don’t want to take on another project. The more simple you keep your no, the easier it will be to stick with it. You can read more about saying no in this helpful article.
When I finally learned how to say no to my kids
Years ago, in a misguided effort to be the best mom possible, I would try my hardest to engineer situations so I never had to say no to anything. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t permissive, I just worked 5x harder than I needed to so I could avoid saying no. What this entailed was thinking of all the questions or requests that might come up during any given activity and then figuring out a way to either prevent the request or have a way to redirect it.
They might ask, “Can I have a drink?” so I’d already have sippies on the table so I wouldn’t have to stop the activity to get drinks.
They might ask for a quarter to get candy from a machine. I’d either avoid the machine to begin with or make sure I had quarters.
They might ask to stay up late. I’d have a prepared mental list of plans “You can stay up for ten more minutes if you’d like to read/snuggle with your stuffies/put your socks away/etc.”
They might ask all the questions. I’d literally do my absolute best to answer literally all of them.
It was exhausting to plan, then preplan, then overplan for just in case, then be vigilant to prevent times where it was obvious I’d have to say no. After doing this for far too long, I released control over several of those “no” prevention techniques and chose a much healthier way to handle situations – by letting the kiddos have more control.
If they wanted water, they could get it themselves. If they wanted candy and I didn’t have a quarter or didn’t want to let them have candy at the moment, they were told no and they were welcome to bring their own quarters whenever they liked. If they wanted to stay up, they’d have to explain why and justify it. If they had a question and I didn’t know the answer, I’d tell them I didn’t know and offer to Google it.
By releasing the need to always say yes, I not only gained more freedom, but also started teaching the kiddos to answer to their own needs and think through what they want and if they are willing to work for it themselves.