How to Say “No.”

I am one busy lady – there is no doubt about it. With a career teaching, and yes, I am currently teaching summer school, a husband, six kids, two large dogs (I had to throw in the large because right now they are playing chase through the house), one cat desperately trying to avoid them, and my blogging – I am busy. And I love to entertain, be with friends, and to travel.  This last week alone, in addition to work and kids (four in the house this last week – six kids at dinner last night) I hosted my ladies pool party, my husband and I spent an evening with our friends on their boat, I attended a book club meeting (The Vacationers), and I saw the movie Planes: Fire and Rescue with Sophia and a friend of hers. Yes, my life is in constant motion. I really believe that I am hard-wired this way. This has been my lifestyle as far as I can remember!
So perhaps I am not the best person to talk about the skill of saying, “No”, as I do not say “No” often, but believe it or not – I DO. As busy as I am, I have learned my limits. Saying “No” is a skill that I purposefully learned when my children were little.I did not always understand my limits. There was one year in particular when I felt pulled into too many different directions because I was saying “Yes” to too many commitments. My life was completely out of balance.I was a mom with three elementary aged kids and teaching – that is a lot, but then throw in teaching catechism, being a girl scout leader, YMCA basketball coach, and the myriad of my children’s afterschool activities. This was a year of crazy, crazy schedules, and I vowed to never, ever get myself into that position again.


I really thought about, “How did my daily life get so out of kilter?” I realized I was saying, “Yes” to commitments that I knew I did not have time for.  But I chose to say, “Yes” because, “There is not one else to help”, and “we really need you to run this program.” I was saying. “Yes” to commitments that I wanted to say, “No” to.I took a long hard look and realized that I was doing a disservice to myself and to my family. I had to scale back.  I had to start saying, “No.”I found my voice. My survival depended on it. Here are my three easy ways to say, “No.”

1. No, I am sorry. I am completely overbooked at this time, and I simply do not have the time to help.

2. No, I am sorry, but there is no way that I can make that work.

3. No, I am sorry but that is something that I just do not have the time for.

I say it with a smile, but beyond that I don’t feel the need to give any further explanation.  I try to respond with a short, sweet, sincere, and to the point, “No.”

It seems that if I give more of an explanation, it sounds as though I am waffling.  And that’s not a good place to be.

If you are being asked to host, help, organize something that you think you might like to be a part of, but are not 100% sure, it is always OK to say:

Let me think about this and get back to you. I would love to help, but I am not sure I can right now. Let me check my calendar and get back to you tomorrow.

The most important aspect to saying, “Yes” is that you truly have the time to invest. It is a great quality to give of your time and your talents, but when life gets crazy-busy you are no good to your family and most importantly you are no good for yourself.

Be firm and know that you are making a decision based on what is best for you and your family. Practice saying, “No” out load.  Stand in front of a mirror and practice. I promise it does get easier.You, your sanity, and your family are reasons enough to stand firm.

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