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How To Say “No” Gracefully

self portraitEver since I left my day job at the end of January the traffic and subscribers on RowdyKittens has doubled. I went from about 500 subscribers at the end of January to over 1,300! Thank you to all the new and long-time RowdyReaders. Thank you for participating in this community and being open to new perspectives. I feel a tremendous sense of gratitude for the recent success.

Now you’re probably wondering how this is correlated to saying “no.” With the increase in traffic, I’ve received an incredible amount of email requests. I respond to each email. But I’m learning that at some point I have to say “no”. It’s impossible to be part of every group, write for 10 different blogs or go to a social event every night.

Living a simple lifestyle means limiting my commitments and being aware of how I spend my time. Having focus and prioritizing ensures that I’m pumped about each new project or activity I take on. I want to be effective and consistently produce quality work. Saving no to an activity or project might disappoint people momentarily but in the long term, learning how to say no is an important skill that demonstrates integrity.

How do you say “no” gracefully?

1. Be honest.

If you need to say “no”, be honest. Don’t lie. People are more understanding than we think.

2. Don’t be a jerk.

Be nice and don’t be a jerk when you say “no” to an invitation or project opportunity. Let the individual know you’d be happy to help in the future, but you can’t participate at this time because of A, B or C. Also, consider referring that person to someone who might be able to help.

3. Let go of guilt.

Saying “yes” to an invitation because you might feel guilty is not cool. In the long run it doesn’t help you or the other person/organization involved. Just because you’ve always planned a big baseball tournament, doesn’t mean you have to continue planning it every year.

If you say “yes” to a commitment you’re not passionate about, people can tell. And more than likely your performance will not be the best. Do what you love. Not what others want you to do.

People are not stupid. They can tell if your passion for a project or an activity has faded. Say “no” and let go of your guilt.

How do you decide to say no to a request, if you’re unsure? Here are some strategies I use to make up my mind:

1. Sleep on it.

Maybe you were invited to a big event, but aren’t sure if you should go? Then sleep on it. If you’re feeling unsure about something a good night sleep might do the trick. I know when I’m sleep deprived my decision making skills aren’t stellar. Don’t be rash, be thoughtful.

2. Go for a walking meditation.

I’m a big fan of taking really long walks (between 2 and 3 hours) in the park. I usually bring my camera, a writing pad and my thoughts. I listen to the birds, insects chirping and wind blowing through the trees. Walking clears my mind and helps me focus on the right choice.

3. Listen to your instinct.

Listen to your gut, instincts, 6th sense or whatever you want to call it. The value of instinctive insight has been disregarded by many people. But I think our brain stores and holds onto information we might not be consciously aware of. We have these kinds of feelings and hunches for a reason, but we tend to ignore them when we should be listening.

What would you add to the list?

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Alejandro Reyes March 30, 2010, 6:39 am

    First of all, Congratulations Tammy! Rowdy Kittens is one of the best resources I have for learning about a simple living. I’m always glad to be part of this community.

    On to the post, it is one of the most important skills that we need. Not only to be happy but to survive in the modern busy world. Even when we try for a simple lifestyle and slowing down, not everyone thinks the same. People often tries to get us into a lot of commitments. But truth is most of the time we can get away with saying no.

    When i’m totally unsure, I try to consult with a family member or friend. Hearing their take on the situation often leads to a way to solve it, even when I may not follow their advice all the time.

    • Tammy March 30, 2010, 4:56 pm

      Thank you Alejandro. You have some really keen observations that are so true. We’re all very busy and it’s important to be aware of how we spend our time.

      Consulting with friends and family about a situation has always helped me in the past too. I should have added that to the list. 🙂

  • Joy Tanksley March 30, 2010, 7:42 am

    Nice job giving practical advice on a very important topic. Christine Kane had a great post about a week back called “Good vs Great” that talked about saying “no” to commitments that sound good so we can say “yes” to the ones that are truly great. You might enjoy reading that, considering your current flurry of requests for your time, creativity, and attention.

    • Tammy March 30, 2010, 4:52 pm

      @Joy – cool! I’ll check out the article. It sounds intriguing.

  • Dave March 30, 2010, 7:49 am

    From “Warrior of the Light” by Paulo Coelho:

    The Warrior knows that the most important words in all languages are the small words.

    Yes. Love. God.

    They are words that are easy enough to say and which fill vast empty spaces.

    There is, however, one word – another small word – that many people have great difficulty in saying: no.

    Someone who never says “no,” thinks of himself as generous, understanding, polite, because “no” is thought of as being nasty, selfish, unspiritual.

    The Warrior does not fall into this trap. There are times when, in saying “yes” to others, he is actually saying “no” to himself.

    That is why he never says “yes” with his lips if, in his heart, he is saying “no.”

    • Tammy March 30, 2010, 4:53 pm

      @Dave – that is beautiful! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Chris O'Byrne March 30, 2010, 8:19 am

    This is a timely post, I was just asked to become a member and contributing author for the Blood-Red Pencil at http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com/

    I’m going to give myself some time to think about it and go for that walking meditation before I make a decision. Thanks for helping me slow down.

    • Tammy March 30, 2010, 4:58 pm

      Chris – that sounds like an awesome opportunity. With that in mind, I’m glad you are taking some time to think it over. 🙂

  • Gypsy March 30, 2010, 10:21 am

    This is a wonderful post Tammy! Congratulations on having such a succesful blog – its an amazing resource and has been a huge influence on me in the last six weeks since I found it … I have moved from being a generally ‘simple’ person to truly understanding the minimilist approach and it is life changing.
    I used to work for a woman who people said could fire you and make you feel like she’d baked you a cake! So saying no graciously is definately possible.

    • Tammy March 30, 2010, 5:02 pm

      @Gypsy and Jes – Thank you both for reading. I appreciate it. 🙂

      @Michele – I agree. That’s why I’ve been saying no lately. If my heart isn’t 100% there, I know my effort won’t be either. People can tell when you put your heart into and project and when you don’t. 🙂

  • Jes March 30, 2010, 10:43 am

    Nice reminder. I like your blog; it’s always well-written and useful. It’s on my a-list that I check a couple of times a week. Thanks.

  • Michele Nicholls March 30, 2010, 11:35 am

    Neat, concise and to the point! Typical ;o) Only a small thing to add – if you allow guilt or similar feelings to push you into saying ‘Yes’ when you’re feeling ‘No’, when you come to do whatever, your heart won’t be in it, and you’ll do a bad job – thus letting both yourself and the receipient down. Not worth it, give 100% or nothing, if you give less than 100% of yourself, you’ll feel even worse than if you said ‘No’ in the first place!

  • Christine Simiriglia March 30, 2010, 2:38 pm

    Before I say “yes” to anything these days, I ask myself a question: “Will this serve my goals or will it bring me closer to the life I want to live?” If the answer is “yes”, it is worth doing or choosing. If the answer is “no”, its a pass. I wrote a piece about it here: http://www.organize-more-stress-less.com/home/2010/3/26/organizing-your-thoughts-to-live-the-life-you-want-to-live.html

    • Tammy March 30, 2010, 5:00 pm

      Sweet! Thank you for the link Christine. I’ll go check it out. 🙂

  • Erin N. March 30, 2010, 2:48 pm

    Great post! With the arrival of our third child, we hit a wall. Truly. We couldn’t live by the paradigm of “good parenting” any longer. I didn’t want to spend every single day running from this activity to that activity, dividing up parenting skills, and meeting and passing like ships in the night, foregoing all family time in pursuit of “proper activities”. It was our first lesson in saying “no” and we haven’t stopped since. Staying “no” is really the first lesson in sticking to your convictions as you design the life that is right for you.

    • Tammy March 30, 2010, 4:59 pm

      @Erin – awesome tips! I can’t imagine being a parent. I’m sure it’s hard saying no to family and other commitments, but like you said it’s for the best. It’s all about living a good, yet balanced life. 🙂

  • Jen March 30, 2010, 11:34 pm

    Great to hear about your success with this blog. I came across it recently and love it.
    Great tips about saying no … done in the right way, no can be so empowering for everyone.

    • Tammy March 31, 2010, 7:24 am

      @Jen – thanks so much! I’m happy you find the content useful. 🙂

  • Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell March 31, 2010, 3:32 am

    Congratulations on the success of your blog, Tammy! I had to learn to say no more than a dozen years ago when I began my freelance writing career. To some people, “freelance,” means “free,” either that you are all of the time, or you can stop what you’re writing to help someone who finds you on the Internet who wants you to read their manuscript. Friends and family thought because I was home, I could do anything anytime without regard to my work. While it’s true I can set my own schedule, I need some advance notice to take time off. This isn’t an issue now that we live in the country, 300 miles from most family and friends! As for helping other writers, I made up a standard response that I email, giving them the resources to find their way if they truly want to be a writer. I feel I am still helping them without charging my standard mentoring fee.

    • Tammy March 31, 2010, 7:26 am

      @Kerri – thank you! 🙂 That’s a great idea. Darren, from ProBlogger, talks about creating some standard emails for certain questions. For example, I get a lot of questions about the 100 Thing Challenge and I’m planning on posting an video update / Q and A section soon. Hopefully that will be a better resource for folks and I won’t have to type the same responses all the time.

      Thanks for all your support Kerri!

    • Krisalyn August 2, 2011, 8:19 am

      Your story was really inorfamtvie, thanks!

  • David March 31, 2010, 10:51 am

    “Answer every email request?”

    Not so much.

    Twice I wrote to inquire whether you had received the affiliate commission for the Thesis blog theme I bought using your I.D. with no response.

    • Tammy March 31, 2010, 1:10 pm

      Hi David – I just sent you an email. Like I said in the note, I do respond to all my emails. However I’m not perfect and make mistakes. I’m hoping we can resolve this offline. Thanks for your time and support, I appreciate it.

  • Little House March 31, 2010, 10:51 am

    This is something I need to master! I say “yes” to almost everything, then find myself overwhelmed. Thanks for the clarity.

  • Bankruptcy Ben June 24, 2010, 7:22 pm

    I say yes to alot of stuff but then i’m so tired at the end of the day I just want to stay home. I’ve always offered my skills for free, not valuing them properly. I think i’m influenced by the popular notion that unless it’s “product” ie solid, able to touch it, or I can build something, my skills arn’t worth anything

  • JanRossiCO August 9, 2010, 2:51 pm

    When I say “no” I try to switch out the word and say “I’ll pass on that one”…..meaning…like…you know…it’s a game and you aren’t “going to take a card” or something like that..tends to be a bit more casual and not as hard edged as the word “NO”.

    I know my limits now – as you get older you can’t be everything to everyone. Pick and choose where and what and who you wanna be/work with….life is so much smoother then isn’t it?

    nice blog.

    btw…..aren’t most kittens rowdy like all the time?

    • C.M. August 11, 2010, 11:58 am

      How does one graciously and casually “pass on things” when people are persistent askers?

      For example, I was asked recently to attend a conference for a group I am not involved in, nor would I like to be involved in, and after saying things like “I don’t think that will fit into my schedule,” “That doesn’t work for my family,” and “I just won’t be able to make that work” for about 10 requests from the same person.

      I’m in a position with light employment and am in intense public view because of my husband’s profession and therefore receive heavy request bombardments for various group memberships, meetings, and volunteer work. I am simply not interested in a few of these groups or some of the types of volunteer work.

      How do I prove to someone I cannot make it work, even when my schedule “looks free” or my husband’s predecessor’s wife “did all this”?

      • Anonymous August 11, 2010, 4:32 pm

        C.M. —

        Use a closing tool that many sales people use…….it’s the being quiet part after you ask for an order. But in this case you are saying “no”. Clearly the person who has asked you 10 times is being so odd, most people would understand….do you think they are purposely trying to get you angry so you yell or blow up at them and then they can use it against you like “so-and-so was so rude about it – gee” watch out for people trying to set you up….especially as you said you are in intense public view. There are tricksters out there.

        So again, say “no” and then zip it…..don’t explain….don’t give a reason….don’t speak…..dead dead dead air is the only thing hanging out there…..because the next person who speaks loses…(and we know that will not be you right?!) so….try it……have someone ask you a question if you can volunteer or something and then look them in the eye and SMILE and say “no”…….and ssshhhhhhh! hold back……….no need to explain yourself….if they keep asking you questions….just node and say “bye now”…………done! you’ve said your piece … er….peace……namaste…..

        practice it……you may be more chatty than you think….no need to elaborate. No means no.

        (they really asked you 10 times? they might have a totally other agenda and I would be super suspicious)

        good luck….and practice! 🙂 no………——quiet———

        Jan

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