Confidence Challenge: Saying No

I didn't plan for this to be the confidence challenge for this month, but it kind of just happened. I found myself saying "No" a lot, and not only did I find that it got SO much easier, I discovered that people actually respect your limits when you state them.


I had a suspicion that saying no was a problem for me, but after I started working, my co-workers quickly confirmed it. I had a horrible time saying no when asked to come in early, stay late, or cover someone else's shift. Even if I'd already made plans, or was already working my maximum number of hours, I still felt guilty, like I'd somehow let them down. The one and only time I called in sick (so far) I rehearsed what I'd say for fifteen minutes. I called, told the manager why I couldn't come in, and all she said was, "Ok, thanks for letting me know." And yet, I felt so guilty that I couldn't stop myself from apologizing profusely. 

On another occasion, after I'd responded to the fifth call for back-up cashiers in fifteen minutes, one of my co-workers said, "You know, you can just tell them 'no'!" And she was right. I wasn't getting my work done because I kept going up front to help cashier. So the next time they asked for me to back-up cashier, I told them I'd come up the last several times, and it would be great if someone else could do it this time. And someone else did. After that, they were better about asking for specific people to make sure that one person wasn't filling in all the time. 

When HR called me twice to fill a shift after I'd already told them I had my church small group to go to that night, I got better about saying "no" like I meant it. No excuses or unnecessary apologies, just "No, I have ______ planned for tonight and I won't be able to." 

I said no to doing special music next Sunday because something came up and I knew I'd be out of town. Then, I took that opportunity to say no to singing special music for the next couple months, since my schedule is already packed with church activities, traveling, and work through March, and I really didn't want the added stress.

I'm glad that that's one less thing I'll have to worry about for the next few months, but it's still really hard for me to say no to things like that, when I feel like people are counting on me. But, I recently read an article in Real Simple's January issue that offered some helpful tips for turning people down.

1. "Crack a joke." Using humor helps diffuse the tension and helps people not take the rejection too personally.

2. "Don't over-estimate your importance." This describes me exactly:"People who have a hard time declining others often exaggerate the impact their rejection will have on the other person. Then when they manage to say no, they divulge their guilty feelings or act like they're intensely burdened by their own response - which succeeds only in making a spurned pal more uneasy." It definitely helps take the pressure off to realize that it's not that big of a deal to the other person, most of the time. 

3. "Offer praise." The president of a casting company offered this tip, and gave the example of turning down people who've auditioned for parts by complimenting them on something from their performance. 

4. "Act now." The literary agent who gave this tip tries to respond quickly when writers pitch her an idea so that they can submit their idea to someone else. She suggests doing the same when responding to a friend, client, or even a date when you know you want to say no. For something that's a bigger responsibility, she recommends taking some time to think about it, but then responding with "I've given your request a lot of thought and I'm honored that you asked, but I don't think I'm the right person." Short, sweet, and to the point. 

Do you struggle with saying no? How do you work through it?