Last week, I wrote that the most important word you ever say may be “no” and why that is the case. This week, let’s address how to say no (because there is an art to it) when the President of the PTA calls you and asks you to volunteer or your boss asks you to work overtime when you cannot. Remember, “no” is not a bad word. In saying “no,” you are actually saying yes to something better.

Be Aware of what You are Saying “Yes” to in Saying “No”

When the PTA President calls, it is a lot easier to say “no” when you are aware that in this particular case, volunteering will mean time away from your kids. If those are your choices, then the “no” comes a lot easier because you are making a priority of the very things you, as an individual and a family, value.

Let Go of the Guilt

Let your “yes” mean yes and your “no” mean no. Do nothing out of guilt or because you feel pressured. I have this rule in my own life and I tell my friends and family this. When my friend asks me to babysit, she knows that I will say “no” if I am unable and “yes” if I can and want to do so. This in turn gives my friend a lot of freedom. She has communicated to me that this kind of “yes” frees her from her own guilt that she may be putting me out.

Create Boundaries

Back to the friend example, create as many of these honest relationships as you can. As weird as it can feel if you have never done it before, explicitly state what you can and cannot do.

I recently moved and my roommate told me this about herself: “I rarely say no to things if you ask me for a favor or for help but if I do say it, I really mean it. It means there is no way for me to do it so it is a hard no. It really upsets me when people try to negotiate after a no.” This is helpful for me as roommate to know about her.

Creating boundaries can feel strange at first but they are so fruitful and not just when it comes to the art of saying “no.”

Don’t Give a Reason (Unless You Have To)

Of course, at the office and in business, there are times when you have to offer an explanation.

But when the PTA President calls, you do not owe her a response like this: “I’m sorry I cannot help you but my husband and I have made it a priority and resolution in 2016 to spend more time as an entire family together. I think it’s really great what you are doing and again, I am sorry!” This is beside the point that you owe her nothing. Instead say, “I’m sorry I cannot help you this time.” Period.

Keep it Brief

The other problem with the original response to the fictional PTA President is that it is just too long. You are using too many useless words and to be honest, as soon as you say “no,” the woman wants to get off the phone and find her actual volunteer. Keep it short and sweet and to the point.

Propose Something Else (if you can)

When it comes to the PTA President, maybe you can ask if there is another role or position that would help her out. Consider offering specifics and propose something else. Does she need help creating a phone tree? Can you do some baking for the bake sale? The latter would be a great opportunity to spend time with family and help out the PTA. Look for opportunities like that and also propose them.

Use Canned Responses

Have some nifty ways to say “no” in your back pocket for certain situations. If a friend asks you for money, know that this is your answer: “I’m sorry I can’t help. I have a personal rule that I don’t mix business and friendship.” This way you are not left stuttering in an awkward situation, wanting to say “no,” and not setting the boundaries mentioned earlier.

Nina Biagini

NB Creative, Inc.

PlumbTalk Content Manager

[email protected]

We want to hear from YOU!

Do you have any tips for the actual moment when you have to say “no” to a friend, an acquaintance, a boss, or even family? What’s your “art” to saying “no”?

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