How to say 'No' like a lady
As I was listening to Ryan Tubridy on the radio this morning I was thrown back to my childhood. You see, Ryan was talking about the way parents often avoid saying 'no' to their kids by replying with 'we'll see' instead. And it's such an interesting response. It can be heard as a tentative 'yes' for some, but for others, it's clear that when Mum says 'we'll see' she definitely means 'no'. Within the same family, for instance, children may know very well that the same response means 'no' from Mum but a 'yes' from Dad (it's just that he doesn't know it yet!)
I laughed out loud because now as a mum in my 40s I find myself doing the exact same thing with my own kids that my parents did with me. And I wonder do you do it too?
Can I buy a new basketball online? - We'll see
Can I bake this afternoon? - We'll see
Can we go to Hawaii on holidays? - We'll see
It's a great response to almost anything your kids can throw at you. But it's not such an effective response in most other areas of your life. So why, oh why, do so many of us struggle to say 'no' one of the shortest words in the English language?
From my own personal experience, it's something I was terrible at doing when I was younger but I've actively worked on it in my 40s and I'm now much more comfortable saying 'no'. Because when you say 'no' you're prioritising your time and your energy. Your two most valuable resources. Because saying 'yes' means you're going to have to give both of those valuable assets away to someone else to fulfil their needs. Why would you do that? It's not a problem when it's something you want to do, like bake a cake with your daughter. But when it's something that you really don't want to do, it's a drain on those valuable resources. Never mind the added resentment that builds up inside when you're doing something for someone else when all you can think about are the tasks and things you could or should be doing for yourself. Ah no, no way, nope. That's not good for you at all.
We can tend to feel the need to give an excuse as to why we're saying 'no’, but as we all know, when it comes to negotiations he or she who starts explaining first is losing. So tip number one is do not feel the need to explain your decision to say 'no'.
A few more tips that come to mind are:
- Remember you're a lady so always be polite and gracious.
Thank them for thinking of you and asking you for your help but you've too much on your plate right now.
- Sleep on it.
Very rarely do people need an immediate response to something so politely say you'll think about it and come back to them. It gives you time to break the cycle of automatically saying yes and allows you time to decide what you really want.
- Start with what you CAN do vs. what you can't do.
For example, I can mind your dog tomorrow afternoon but I can't mind them for the weekend. It's going to happen folks because almost everyone I know has acquired a dog and the time will come when they need a dog sitter. You've been warned!
- Be sympathetic and offer an alternative solution.
For example, "Oh, you'd like me to help you paint your living room this weekend?" Thanks for asking for my help but let me recommend Joe Bloggs Painter who I found did a great job in my house last year.
- Be honest.
Thanks for asking me to join your book club but I'm not really into joining a club right now. I've got a shelf of books I'm already working through.
Thanks for the invitation to go with you to a heavy metal concert but it's not really my kind of thing. I'm sure someone else would appreciate the ticket more.
Start with small decisions, build up the 'no' muscle and you'll find it builds up your confidence to say 'no' to bigger requests.
When it comes to work projects and tasks, learning to say 'no' is the BEST thing you can do for your career. Think strategically about the request and whether it advances your career; gives you greater visibility at a senior level or has a significant positive impact on a key client. If not, say 'no' like a lady. Remember your time and energy are your most valuable assets and you need to guard them with your life.
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