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  • Carla Collis Gesite

5 Times No is the Only Answer

When was the last time you said No?

Chances are, it's been a while. (Well, except maybe saying No to your kids.)

Why is saying No so difficult for many of us?

  • We don't want to let somebody down or cause hurt feelings.

  • Or we worry what people will think of us if we say No.

  • Or maybe Yes has simply become our automatic response.

And what happens as a result...?

We volunteer to chair the committee for that Christmas banquet...

And we're so exhausted we don't enjoy Christmas very much.

We agree to dog sit for our neighbors...

And spend time with the neighbor's dog, leaving less time for our own.

When our colleague is up against a deadline, we help her out...

And work so late we miss our daughter's piano recital.

Here's the thing: Until we learn to say No, we have too much to do and not enough time to do it.

We can't manufacture more time. When we say Yes to one thing, we're automatically saying No to something else. And...

When we spend time doing things that aren’t important to us, we sacrifice the things that are.

Contrary to how you might feel, I assure you the world will not come to an end if you're not there for the 5 pm meeting. Or you don't bake cookies for the church bake sale. Or you pick up takeout instead of cooking dinner.

Many situations call for a firm No, but there are 5 times I'd argue that No is the only reasonable answer:

1) When what you're asked to do is someone else's responsibility.

Once you take something on that's someone else's responsibility, he/she is much more likely to ask for help with it again. You'll find you unintentionally teach him/her to rely on you.

Take your son as an example. It's a nice gesture to do his laundry when he's home from college. But, wouldn't you rather he learn to take responsibility for it himself?

And if your sister relies on you to buy Christmas presents for all your siblings, you better believe she'll want to make it a tradition!

2) When there's something more important to do.

Have you ever heard the expression "give up the good to go for the great?" Just because something's worthwhile doesn't mean it's the most appropriate thing to do.

Last Christmas I felt conflicted about whether to go to my parents' annual Supper Club party or attend my goddaughter's engagement party in Nashville.

The older she gets, the more my Mom relies on my sister and me to help with her party. But, this time, I decided it was more important for me to go to my goddaughter's engagement party. She'll only get engaged once (God-willing), but my parents will have their party again. And my sister was there to help.

3) When it's something you really don't want to do.*

If you really don't want to do what you're being asked, you'll be miserable doing it. You may find you resent the person doing the asking. And it'll probably be hard not to let it affect your mood.

Thinking about this reason to say No, I'm reminded of a situation with a client. One time, against my better judgment, I began working with a client who wasn't a good fit. She was a perfectly lovely person, but I wasn't the right coach for her -- and I sensed it from the start. Our personalities simply didn't mesh well. If I'd followed my intuition, we would've saved ourselves from a couple of tension-filled sessions.

*I'll agree sometimes we have to bite the bullet and do things we hate because they're necessary.

4) When you feel you're being taken for granted.

In my experience, if you feel like you're being taken for granted, you probably are! You deserve to be appreciated for your contributions. It's perfectly fine to turn down a request if someone doesn't value your efforts or show respect for your contributions.

5) When you really need some time to yourself.

If you're exhausted or frazzled, you're probably not the best person to handle the task, anyway. And, the good news is, if you take time for yourself, you'll have renewed energy to be of service to others later.


Next time someone asks you to do something, remember this list. Don't hesitate say No if that's what makes sense for you.


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