No! – A simple, two-letter word. Should be easy to say, right? No! In my experience, this small declaration of independence is often the result of a hard-fought war within the mind. Victory can be won, but the battles are tough!
Dr. John Townsend, author of the book Boundaries, says that “No” is the Christian curse word – that’s a pretty strong statement but with so many believers who “can’t say no,” I can see why he would say such a thing! Let me give you an example:
A young man recently confessed he had been asked to be a youth leader, Sunday school teacher, greeter, deacon and part of the leadership team at his church. He had a wife and two small children and oh by the way, he also worked a full-time job! While he enjoyed each aspect of his involvement at church, it soon became obvious his priorities were messed up!
He wanted to say no, he needed to say no, but he said yes anyway. As a result, he had begun to feel used and resentful; on his way to burn-out.
He, like many of us, needed to learn how to say no without blowing up, wimping out or running away. What do I mean by these terms?
Blowing up! – We “take it” and “take it” and “take it,” until we can’t “take it” any more! Like the young man above, we take on too much! From a place of resentment we explode in anger, and usually the relationship is blown up as well!
Wimping Out – We don’t want to agree, but we also can’t quite get up the courage to say no. So we excuse ourselves by muttering things like: “If I don’t agree, they’ll be mad,”
“They’re in a bad place right now.” “They need me.”
“They won’t like me.” We can find plenty of reasons to “wimp out!”
Running Away - When you try to avoid the other person, change the subject or come up with a bunch of excuses. These are often the people who burn out and stop doing ANYTHING, going from one extreme to the other.
The question then becomes:
How do we say no without blowing up, wimping out or running away?
Pass the “P’s” Please
A couple of “P’s” can help: -- Planning and Practice. Let’s talk about Planning first:
Planning – If you haven’t been very good at saying “No,” you will need to be prepared; get some tools for your toolbox. Here are three: Tool #1 – Keep It Short and Sweet
Don’t explain, but keep your “no” short and simple. Too often, people feel obliged to expound on why they need to say no. However, the longer the story, the more others can find reasons why that doesn’t work (for them!) “Oh, don’t worry,” they’ll say, “it won’t take that long,” “it’s just for this time,” etc. etc. etc.
I recently called to cancel our TV subscription. You know what’s that like, right? They have specially trained people to talk you out of cancelling and often, you wind up signing up again!
I was prepared this time, however, with something I call
Tool #2 – The Broken Record Technique
TV Employee: “Oh, what brought you to this decision?” (ready to counter any objections I might offer)
Me: “Broken Record” – repeated same thing: “I just need to cancel our TV subscription.”
After a couple of other efforts to get more information from me, the employee said, “well, it’s your decision. We’re sorry to lose you as a customer.”
Yes! I was able to say No!
Tool #3 – Learn a New Phrase – “Let Me Get Back To You”
Suppose you’re asked to add something to your already full schedule and you know you don’t have time. However, you’re filled with anxiety when you even contemplate “disappointing” them. It’s important not to use this as a “wimp out;” which can drive you to say, “Sure, I’d be happy be help! Instead, you pull out Tool #3 and say, “Let me check my schedule and get back to you.”
Within 24 hours, call and say, “I’m sorry; I checked my calendar and I can’t do that. I wish you all the best!” If necessary, use Tool #2 – Broken Record – and simply repeat what you’ve already said. Then, pump your fist and say, “Yes! I was able to say No!”
Ok, you’ve Planned and you’re Prepared; the next step is to Practice. We can have very satisfying conversations in our heads that don’t translate to our tongues very well. When you practice, familiarity brings comfort and confidence.
Practice using each of the tools listed above:
- In front of a mirror
- With someone else
- Writing down exactly what you want to say
Then – enjoy the freedom which comes from Learning To Say No Without Blowing Up, Wimping Out or Running Away!