It’s why I whine and moan from time to time about being overwhelmed. It’s why I sweep through a week’s worth of my calendar and cancel anything that isn’t critical. It’s why I keep my office door closed at home, keeping out those who love and just want to support me.

          I can have a really tough time saying “no.” I can say “no” to a stranger or a more anonymous request than I can to really close friends or family.

The Need to Get Sick

          My latest trick is to agree to something and then back out later when others have just gotten used to the fact that I’ll be there, that I’ll take care of it, or that they can count on me. And, if I can’t gracefully extricate myself from a commitment it seems I wind up getting sick:  “Oh, my cold is so bad, and I don’t want to infect everyone so I have to bow out.”

          This doesn’t happen often; I do have healthy boundaries for the most part about saying “no” but it seems there’s always an awkward situation that surprises me, and I find myself sputtering about with excuses instead of just saying “No, I’m not able to help you this time.” 

Some Suggestions

          Recently I checked out some good suggestions for saying “no” gracefully to anyone … even to a close friend or esteemed colleague. Some of the suggestions include:

          -Don’t put it off. Waiting several days to say “no” 

               to any request will only make it more difficult. 
               People who need something from you won’t 
               forget about their request, so jump on it then they 
               can look to others for assistance.

         -Avoid using excuses like “I’m just swamped,” or 
               “I’ve been sick,” or “I have to work,” (or have 
               to do something else at that time) unless they 
               are true.

         -Make your reason for saying “no” brief and then 
               be quiet. More blubbering with added excuses 
               and laments will not make it easier for you or 
               more believable to them. Just repeat your short 
               reason and then zip it. You don’t really need 
               an excuse anyway. Either you can or you can’t 
               and that’s the bottom line.

         -If you can genuinely make an alternative offer, 
               do so. Like “I am happy to do it next week if 
               it helps.”

          In general, not jerking people around when they’ve asked you for something is always the best policy, but it doesn’t always go smoothly. What happens when the person who needs you gets upset? As I’ve said so many times in previous posts, I try to learn from my mistakes and then move on. Also, I always try to remember that a person who gets angry when I say “no, sorry,” might not be the true friend I thought s/he was.
          Practice makes perfect, so keep at it!

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