We don’t talk about “No.” (no no no)
With apologies to the Bruno song, perhaps we should actually talk about the word “No”. This applies to everyday life, but with the holidays approaching, getting a handle on this little word may be a game changer.
“The oldest, shortest words – ‘yes’ and ‘no’ – are those which require the most thought.” Pythagoras
If we are going to simplify our life, we can not clutter our calendars with tasks that don’t match our goals. Obviously we all want to be helpful or involved whenever we can, but there are times when we know that saying yes will be more of a burden than the person who asked could ever know. We don’t need to share the details of the burden, we just need to politely excuse ourselves from the task.
First of all, realize that “No.” is a complete sentence. You can say “No, thank you.” if you are feeling polite. The point is, you don’t owe anyone an explanation for why you are saying ‘no”.
If a simple “No” seems too blunt for your taste, let’s explore some options.
Once, after moving to a new area, I was asked to help in a community organization we belonged to. The task at hand was in my skill set. I had done it before, but honestly, I knew that every time I had attended to that task in the past, it gave me a pit in my stomach. Instead of giving a “Yes” or a “No”, I said “Not now," but they could ask again in six months. I truly did want to be involved with this group, but not with the task that was first offered. Six months later I was so involved in that group in ways that fit my passions and gave me joy, they didn’t need to ask for the original favor. When you know you have a bigger “Yes” simmering inside of you, you can confidently say “No” to what doesn’t fit your passions and gifts.
Similarly, if you really want to help right away, but know deep inside the “ask” isn’t a good fit, you can make a counter offer. “I can’t do this, but I could do that instead.”
If Not Now or Negotiate isn’t right for you and you really do need to Just Say No, here is a thought to get you through that tough moment:
The 5 minute rule
We have friends that told us they have a Five Minute Rule for “No”. Here’s how it works.
Someone asks you to do something you don’t want to do. You mull the consequences of a “Yes” or a “No”. Either you say yes and feel resentful for caring out that task until it is completed, or you say no and have an awkward five minutes with the person who asked, and then move on with your lives. The question you have to ask yourself is, “Is it worth that awkward five minutes?” Brilliant, right? Five minutes vs. entirety of the task. I’ll pick five minutes all day long! If you really think the answer is “no” just rip the bandaid off and tell them. Those 5 minutes will be over before you know it.
“Time is everything. Five minutes make the difference between victory and defeat.” Horatio Nelson
Focus on the those areas where you feel called to serve. These areas will probably change throughout life. What you naturally say “Yes” to now, will be a hard “No” later in life. There is a season to everything.
If you say “Yes” to everything, you may be keeping someone else from serving in that calling. It’s okay to say “No” if it’s not a good fit. In fact, you should say “No” in that instance. We cannot all be good at everything. Know thyself!
Part of knowing yourself is knowing your energy levels and the levels of your family members. As you consider what you will say “Yes” to, take a realistic look at your schedule. You may have many options for socializing, sports, music, church, and school activities. Think through what your family can handle. Choose wisely. There are some things that you will be required to attend due to your school or job responsibilities. Everything else is negotiable. Don’t succumb to FOMO (fear of missing out). Consider choosing stillness over swamped, hush over hustle.
“If you want more time, freedom, and energy, start saying no.” Anonymous
I pray that God would give each of you the wisdom to discern the best time to say “Yes” and “No” throughout life.
You can do this!
Laura ~ your organizing girlfriend