Five Strategies That Make It Easier to Say “No”

This is a guest post by Jill Savage, the CEO of Hearts at Home, an organization that encourages and equips moms. She is the author of five books and the co-author of two including her most recent release with her husband, Living With Less So Your Family Has More. A mom of five, Jill is also active on Facebook and Twitter. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

Many leaders I know struggle with over-commitment. Dozens of great opportunities come our way, but there’s no way to do them all—or at least do them all well.

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Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/paphia

Most of us long for balance in our life and margin in our days. We don’t like the feeling of being over committed, but we find ourselves there more often than we like. This is because any organization, church, or community group we choose to be involved in most likely has a shortage of good leaders. Once a leader becomes involved in the group, it’s only a matter of time before the requests to take a leadership role start rolling in.

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The truth is, when we say yes to too many activities and responsibilities, we are, in essence, saying no to the people or priorities that mean so much to us. After too many years of over-commitment, I’ve found the key to keeping balance and margin in my life as a leader comes down to one small two-letter word: No.

It’s a small word that packs a lot of power in our lives if we’ll learn how to use it with consistency and grace. I know, however, that it’s not a very easy word for most leaders to say.

I’ve found five “saying no” strategies that have helped me become more comfortable setting boundaries and protecting my most precious priorities:

  1. Never say yes on the spot. When you are asked to do something, tell them you will need to think about it for at least 24 hours. This gives you time to truly evaluate the wisdom of adding something to your schedule.
  2. Don’t feel like you need to give a long list of excuses. If you evaluate the opportunity and your answer is no, simply respond with, “Thank you so much for thinking of me, but this won’t work for me at this time.” No further explanation is needed.
  3. Commit to no more than one major and one minor volunteer responsibility at a time. A major responsibility requires weekly preparation and a more substantial time commitment such as teaching a Sunday school class, or coaching your child’s baseball team. A minor commitment has little time commitment and little on-going responsibility like working in the church nursery once a month or providing snacks for the baseball team a couple of times during the season. With major/minor guidelines set, if you say yes to a new opportunity it will require you to say no to a current commitment.
  4. Keep in mind you do not have to say yes just because you are capable. If you’re a leader, you are a very capable person. Several years ago someone shared with me a simple question to ask myself when considering getting involved in something: I’m capable, but am I called? In other words I can do this, but is it what God made me for? Is it my passion?
  5. Hit the delete button when guilt sneaks in. Remember that you alone know what is best for you and your family. The person offering the opportunity doesn’t understand that. Stand firm and be confident in knowing that boundaries are essential to your emotional and relational health.

Saying no lets us say yes to the most important things in life like spending time with our spouse, playing with our kids, and making time for our friends.

And that’s what life is really all about, isn’t it?

Question: What strategies do you use for saying “no”? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    Jill! One way of saying ‘no’ is to be assertive in our life. Being firm helps us a lot. And, one important factor is that we should not people pleasers ( rather than God pleasers)in this world. We that attitude creeps inside us, we will not be able to prioritize things in our life. And, do not try to be too smart.

    • Jill

      I absolutely agree. If our filter was always to please God and not people, it would make saying “no” so much easier (as well as a lot of other things we struggle with!)

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  • Timothy Fish

    What you say in #4 is key for me. When saying yes would take away from the time I have available to do those things that I feel God has called me to do, I believe it would be wrong to say yes. The cool thing is that when I’ve said no in situations like that God has placed people in those positions that were better qualified to do the work.

    While it may be true that there are a lack of qualified leaders in some situations, this is not true when we are talking about a church; God has promised otherwise. By saying no to things God isn’t leading us to do we open doors of opportunity for other people to do what God wants them to do.

    • Jill

      Our “no” can be someone else’s “yes.” I learned that one a long time ago, too, Timothy. Thanks for bringing it into the discussion.

  • http://www.halfwaydownstairs.blogspot.com Emilyadams829

    Having a clear sense of mission/vision/purpose/the bigger picture helps. When a new commitment arises, I try to see how it will fit into the bigger picture. Is it in line with my life mission/calling/vision/purpose? Donald Miller talks a lot about evaluating things in terms of how they help our “life story.” In other words, does getting involved in this activity make “my story” better or worse? Asking those kinds of questions help me evaluate commitments and turn down unnecessary ones.

    • Jill

      Emily, that is an important part of #4. If we really understand our mission/vision/purpose than answering the question “I’m capable, but am I called?” becomes much easier!

      Have you actually written out a mission statement?

  • Amrita from India

    I am trying to assert myself and say No. I found all th e 5 points very helpful. Will keep them in mind

  • http://modernservantleader.com/ Benjamin Lichtenwalner

    Defaulting to No: In high pressure projects with tight timelines, you may not have the luxury of 24 hours to decide. In these cases, I default to “no” and/or place the requestor (often your boss) in the position of prioritizing…

    Exchange “No” for “Prioritize”: We rarely have to say no, forever. Instead, it’s often about trade-offs. I try to position saying “no” to superiors as that trade-off. For example, “if I take this on, then I can’t do X, which would you prefer I do?”

    Great suggestions Jill. I have to remember these – thank you for sharing!

    • Jill

      Great insight, Benjamin! I really like your “Exchange “No” for “Prioritize,” and how you would handle a request in a work situation with a question back to your leader. It is a respectful way to say yes, but still keeping boundaries in place.

  • http://www.womenlivingwell-courtney.blogspot.com womenlivingwell

    This entire post spoke to me – but this right here: “The truth is, when we say yes to too many activities and responsibilities, we are, in essence, saying no to the people or priorities that mean so much to us.” – knocked my socks off! Amen! This is so true! Thank you for putting it this way so I can see it so clearly.
    Great post!
    Courtney

  • Bwenman

    I learned a phrase a few years ago that has really helped me say no with respect. “It’s not in my best interest at this time”. or “It does not fit into my schedule at this time”. People really seem to respect that as a thoughtful decision that I have made instead of a statement about the value of what they want me to do. It works great! It’s so important to set boundaries to achieve the life you want! Saying no is a critical way to protect those boundaries. Thanks for posting this!

  • http://www.confessionsofalegalist.com Jeremy Statton

    Its can also be good to reevalute the things we have said yes to from time to time. After saying yes you might realize it was a mistake and need to make a change. Some people think this is quitting, but it is not. It is being realistic.

    • Jill

      I agree, Jeremy. That often happens with the “one major/one minor” principle, because it requires consistent evaluation.

      I’m curious…is that something you do on a continual basis or do you have a regular time of the year that you evaluate your commitments? Some people use the start of the new year or a new school year to do those kinds of evaluations. For me, it seems to be a continual process.

      • http://www.confessionsofalegalist.com Jeremy Statton

        I probably do not do it enough. Planning on doing it on a regular basis is a good strategy, but you should also have the flexibility and perception to do it whenever the need arises.

  • Jenny

    I appreciate the perspective of #3–it’s something I’m going to need to consider for the upcoming school year.

  • http://www.intlprincess.org Bruce Bartolomeo – Board Chair

    Michael, thank you for your posts. Years ago a visiting missionary who preached one Sunday said something very freeing. He said, “A need is not a call.” There have been a few instances when a group of people from church who were going on a short term missions trip would ask me if I was going. When I responded with a quick “no”, they were a little taken back and would ask why not. I would simply reply, “I haven’t been called. I walk out of my front door to my mission field every day. When God calls me overseas, then I’ll go.” I further explain that there are needs around us all the time, and if we tried to fill them all we would wear ourselves out in short order. That gives me margin for excellence iforthe things I am called to do.

    • Karl Mealor

      “A need is not a call.” Love that! Thanks for sharing.

      I struggle with this a lot. Part of the problem is that I’m transitioning into a different phase of ministry, so my priorities have changed.

    • Jill

      Bruce, I love the phrase “the need is not the call.” I will be adding that to my strategies! Thank you for sharing.

  • http://www.RumorsOfGlory.com/net Lucille Zimmerman

    When my children were young I couldn’t say no to anyone. I had a neighbor who was the same way. One day I called to see if she could watch my kids. She took a deep sigh and agreed, but I could tell she didn’t want to. All day long I worried — what if she was mean to them? What if she was so stressed and didn’t need two extra children that day? Because she couldn’t say no, she made me feel unsafe.

    Fast forward to a professor I had in graduate school. He had very clear boundaries and found it easy to say yes or no. If I said, “Could I come in and talk?” he would simply say, “Nope, not this week” or “Sure, how does Friday work?” He never gave lengthy explanations. Because he could so easily tell me yes or no, I felt very safe in asking.

    Later when I became a counselor, I put these two scenarios side by side. I realized people with strong boundaries make others feel safe, and people with weak ones make others feel unsafe. Most “pleasers” say yes because they think it will make others like them. But my experience is just the opposite happens.

    • http://jillsavage.org Jill Savage

      I’m a big proponent of “safety” in relationships. In fact, I’ve written about it in a couple of my books. But I have never thought about it in this way. Thank you for sharing your story! You’ve expanded the concept of “being safe” for me!

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    Very helpful list, Jill. Years ago my wife and I were small group leaders at a fast growing church. As the church grew, so did the opportunities. It was easy to say yes to shiny new ministries with lots of bells and whistles. Soon my wife and I were doing “ministry” almost every day of the week and things quickly went from enjoyable to overwhelming. We wanted out, but found ourselves committed to a lot of people. After a few years of this, we moved to a different city and a new church. I gave myself a vow of saying NO and made a list similar to yours.

    I’ve found that balance is the key and there is only so much time to do things. I would rather be a part of one group and do things well, than be a part of many groups and just struggle through. Unfortunately some of the best opportunities come with decisions that need to be made on the spot. While it might be nice to mull a speaking or job opportunity over for 24 hours, the reality is someone usually wants an answer immediately or the opportunity may go to someone else. This is where it is nice to have a calendar with you and follow one simple rule. Double the time you think it will take and see if it fits on your calendar. If you can schedule it… great. If you can’t, say NO! The key to making this work is to schedule your family time and important activities in advance. Making a family calendar with some locked in family time will truly make it easy to say yes to what is really important to you and NO to the things that aren’t.

    • http://jillsavage.org Jill Savage

      John, you are absolutely right. My husband and I have found this important for keeping our marriage a priority. Our date nights are a “recurring event” on our Outlook calendar. We put them on the calendar before anything else and we plan around them.

  • http://twitter.com/ASISTASJOURNEY Natasha L. Robinson

    Exactly. Great post and confirmation:
    http://asistasjourney.com/2011/01/12/leadership-say-no/

  • http://twitter.com/matt_steen matt_steen

    I think that we need to take this one step further and apply this to the people that we lead. If we, as leaders, are unable to say no to things our people our going to burnout since we are the pace setters. We need to embrace no, model what saying no looks like, and give our teams the permission to say no as well.

    • http://jillsavage.org Jill Savage

      Matt, sometimes that’s one of the hardest things to do as a leader, but it is essential for good leadership. I think Benjamin’s suggestion above (if I take this on, then I can’t do X, which would you prefer I do?”) is a great response to teach our team to use to keep balance in the job environment.

  • http://immersionblogapy.blogspot.com lori

    This is all great advice, and saying no has been a real learning process for me. I used to give excuses if I did say ‘no,’ which turned into an opportunity for negotiations. I like that tip the best because ‘no’ should be enough on it’s own. Thanks for the tips!

  • Ben

    I needed this one. Sometimes I feel like I have to give a good excuse to the person asking. And people who know me well know they can guilt me into doing things for them.

    • http://www.cdenning.com Chris Denning

      I feel the same way. Especially when you are in an organization, church, or community where the talent you have is scarce. Sometimes, you’re literally the only person, seemingly, who can do something, and we need to allow our priorities define what we say “no” to rather than our friend guilt. Good thought.

  • Anonymous

    Good stuff, Mike! This is a subtle struggle that seems to only show up when I’m in over my head. I’ve gotten better over the last few years, but your post today is a timely reminder.
    Per your third bullet: At our church we encourage two commitments. A PRIMARY MINISTRY: Find a H.A.T. that fits to make a difference that lasts. H=Heart. A=Abilities. T=Time. Where these align is your sweet spot; your God-design for this season of life. A SECONDARY MINISTRY: Lend a hand that helps to distribute the load. This boils down to exercising a servant’s heart. These roles require little if any preparation. The main ingredient is that you show up and pitch in. We don’t ask for five commitments…or allow it. This strategy insures that there are always places for new people to get involved, and it keeps our team from the proverbial “burn out.”

    • http://jillsavage.org Jill Savage

      I really like the H.A.T wording…thank you for sharing that!

      • Anonymous

        It’s been a life saver / ministry saver for a lot of people.

    • http://reflectionswithcoffee.com BettyMc

      I’m going to have to share that H.A.T. at church. Maybe I’ll wear a big fancy hat when I do to make it easier to remember.

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  • http://relevantbrokenness.com Marni Arnold

    I learned the value of “no” in a positive light when I read the book, Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend. The book helped me realize that I need healthy boundaries in my life to advocate healthy relationships between God, myself and others – and that saying “no” to others requests, demands and/or expectations of me is not a bad thing.

    Without “no” we wouldn’t be able to form boundaries in our lives – but we must be careful not to let our “no’s” become a means to create walls. We can say “no” too much if we let it get carried away with it.

    Also, another book I found to be valuable is one I read for my ministry class awhile back – “Choosing to Cheat” by Andy Stanley. Excellent book to informing you about knowing what areas of life need to be left alone by you so you don’t cheat the areas God needs you personally to be working in for Him.

    Saying “no” is powerful – and it can be offensive. That is usually their responsibility to embrace, not yours though.

    • http://jillsavage.org Jill Savage

      Marni, I heard Andy Stanley speak on the topic of “Choosing to Cheat,” several years ago and it was very helpful to me in my journey of boundaries, too!

      Thank you for adding these two great resources to our discussion.

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        We published that book. It is really powerful, though I think the title hindered it’s success in the market.

  • Johnnie Donley

    Thank you for #3. Even though I’ve committed to a major volunteer opportunity, I still feel guilty sometimes — that I should be doing more. Over the last few months, I’ve realized that if I don’t have time to take care of the responsibilities I already have, I definitely don’t need to be adding more. Very much appreciate the post.

  • http://familysynergy.wordpress.com JD Eddins

    Number 4 hit me right between the eyes! When I started my new job the company was going through a transition and a couple of people unexpected left their positions. I had the ability to cover some of their responsibilities so I stepped in, however I took on too much at one time, which also led to me ignoring number 3.
    Thanks for sharing this very helpful advice.

  • http://geoffreywebb.wordpress.com/ Geoff Webb

    Great post, Jill; saying no is a discipline we desperately need today. God’s kneading this into my life in three ways:

    1. Lots of people died and got sick on earth during Jesus’ ministry; he didn’t restore everyone to perfect health—though it might have seemed like a good thing to. He listened to his Father. This leads to…

    2. Just because I can do something, doesn’t mean I should. When I say yes to something good (but outside my calling), I’m diluting or diminishing the best God has for me and others.

    3. When I’m asked to do something and I have to say no, I always think, “who else could do this?” and try to use the opportunity to raise up someone else.

    Thanks!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I love the example of Jesus. You are so right. He could have wore Himself out (humanely speaking), trying to meet every need. But He didn’t.

    • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

      Great points Geoff! Jesus does set the example for us in everything – even in saying ‘no’ to great things. I have also used your #2 and #3 points – instead of looking at short-term gains for ourselves, we need to look at the long-term picture for ourselves, the potential of God wanting someone else for the particular role, and the long-term health of the role/ministry/organization.

  • Rabrooks1

    People with the helping gifts, like serving, mercy, often find themselves in these overcommitted positions. It’s one of the reasons that pastors, social workers, and nurses suffer from burnout in about seven years (based upon my recall of the data). I greatly appreciate the insights of this review. Thanks so much.

  • http://jillsavage.org Jill Savage

    One more great book on the subject is “Margin” by Dr. Richard Swenson.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I love this book! I wish I had written it.

    • http://shine4himphoto.wordpress.com Nicole

      I’ll have to check that one out. I’ve been studying “Boundaries” (Cloud & Townsend), which was also excellent.

  • http://twitter.com/B_Schebs B_Schebs

    Great post Jill. Thank you. I struggle with #2. I feel like I always need to give a massive list of the “whys” behind saying no. I think it more to try to make me feel less guilty than anything else. Looks like I know what I will be working on.

  • http://jillsavage.org Jill Savage

    Geoff, several years ago I did a deep study of the life of Christ and that was one of the things that hit me…Jesus went to bed every night and not all the needs were met. His example is so helpful to us!

  • http://jillsavage.org Jill Savage

    Geoff, several years ago I did a deep study of the life of Christ and that was one of the things that hit me…Jesus went to bed every night and not all the needs were met. His example is so helpful to us!

  • Anonymous

    I’m learning the power of no, particularly as a writer. Though I office at home, I work full time (if not more), so I can’t say yes to various school committees. My kids know this, thankfully. I help when I can, but I’ve learned it’s okay to say no.

  • http://2020visiononline.org Josh Hood

    Great advice, Jill. I especially appreciated #2 – Don’t feel like you need to give a long list of excuses. I think I tend to try to justify my ‘no’s’.

    • http://jillsavage.org Jill Savage

      Josh, as Lori said earlier, when we give a long list of excuses it can easily turn into an opportunity for negotiations and that’s not what we’re looking for! A simple response of “Thank you for thinking of me, but it’s not going to work out for me this time,” helps keep negotiations at bay.

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        I agree with this approach. For example, I get lots of guest post submissions. I turn most of them down. I don’t have time to offer a critique. And if I try, it only encourages debate, negotiation, and a bigger drain on my time.

        • http://2020visiononline.org Josh Hood

          So true. Thank you guys for your input. Discussions like this make us all better leaders!

      • http://2020visiononline.org Josh Hood

        Exactly. It’s ironic that some of our natural instincts to prevent hard
        feelings actually cause them sometimes!

  • http://www.organizingpro.com Marcia Ramsland

    Great article, Jill! A way to give you courage to say “no” is to use a 168 hour Time Tracker for a week to see where your time goes now. Once you see where your time goes, you know something has to go out before something new has to come in. Anyone is welcome to print the free one page download at organizingpro.com.

    • http://jillsavage.org Jill Savage

      Thanks for the resource, Marcia! Sometimes reality is the best teacher.

    • http://twitter.com/B_Schebs B_Schebs

      interesting tool. I am curious to see how much time I spend commenting on blogs and twitter. EEK!!!!

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  • http://rmabry.blogspot.com Richard Mabry

    Mike, I’m going to print this post and frame it. Thanks for the guidance.
    And while I’ve got your attention, there’s this volunteer position open that I think you’d be perfect for.
    : )

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Ha! I will see if I can find a volunteer to fill in for me.

  • http://www.christopherscottblog.typepad.com/ Christopher Scott

    Great post Jill.

    My strategy for saying “no” is to always think about the commitment before I make it. I’m passionate about serving people, so when an opportunity arises to do just that, I have a tendency to say yes as soon as I hear of the need.

    After taking time to think about my strengths and prior time commitments, I can do a better job of saying “no.”

  • http://reflectionswithcoffee.com BettyMc

    I like the “capable vs called” comment.
    One strategy some families use is an agreement to use the other person as a “villain”. “I’m sorry, I can’t … My husband said no.”. Or “my mom said no way!”

  • Lisa

    I use #1 and #2 frequently now but it took me a LONG time to get there…saying yes for me always made me feel included in a way – does that make sense? It took me a long time to figure out that being with my kids and family and focusing on them more was the only place that I really, truly belonged.

    • http://jillsavage.org Jill Savage

      That makes a lot of sense, Lisa. Thanks for sharing this insight. I think many of us will relate to this line of thinking.

  • http://www.gospellab.com Gospel lab

    An easy way to say no in two words:

    No t
    No w

    You can always come back and reevaluate the situation.

    • http://2020visiononline.org Josh Hood

      Well put. I have never regretted taking time to think something through. But I have often regretted NOT taking time, and committing on the spot.

  • http://www.rebeccabarlowjordan.com Rebecca Barlow Jordan

    Jill, I really liked your blog and enjoyed all the comments. They are so helpful. The book that was mentioned, “Margin,” has been a staple of mine for years. I have read it repeatedly! I wrote about one thing that’s helping me to keep on track in this season of life in a recent blog of mine on my website called, “How to Accomplish More With Only One Thing.” While it’s a devotional, I tried to list ten practical areas within it where we could incorporate this “One Thing” principle in our lives (based on the familiar Mary/Martha passage). Again, I enjoyed your guest blog, all the helpful comments, and all of Michael’s posts. They have been extremely helpful to me.

    • http://jillsavage.org Jill Savage

      Rebecca…I”ll be checking out that blog post! Sounds interesting!

  • http://shine4himphoto.wordpress.com Nicole

    #2 is so important (and hard to do)!!

    I also use a rule similar to #1. “When in doubt, say no.” Many people say yes when they’re not sure. This also helps with dealing with people who use manipulative or high-pressure tactics (it happens even in church!). I know the Holy Spirit always gives us the info we need at the right time. If he hasn’t answered me by the time someone else wants me to respond, then I take that as a NO. It’s very freeing, actually!

  • Katherine

    The problem with Jill’s advice, for me, is that everything my children are involved in–two different schools, plus one extracurricular activity each–*requires* a parental volunteer commitment. If I say “no” to this “volunteering,” I’m saying “no” to my children’s education. Talk about guilt!

    • http://jillsavage.org Jill Savage

      Katherine, that is a challenge. Is there any way that you can make those required volunteer assignments “minor” responsibilities rather than major? For instance, rather than serving on a committee at my kid’s school, I volunteer to donate baked goods several times a year. It’s still volunteering…just at a different level.

      • Katherine

        I do try to avoid leadership roles, but one school requires 35 hours per year and the other 40, so I can’t really make them “minor.” At least next year they’ll be in the same school!

  • http://goinswriter.com Jeff Goins

    I use #1 a lot, but am trying to be more honest with this approach. If I know, for sure, that the answer is no, I shouldn’t lead them on.

  • Jeff Jones

    I have learned to say no to the bigger requests from organizations, committees and the like but still struggle with saying no when people come to me in the office for quick hits. I strongly dislike the idea of working behind a closed door but if I don’t, I feel like I’m working on one side of a revolving door.

  • Rich

    I love practical lists like this. I am the lead pastor of church plant and my time and focus are limited these days, not to mention I have four young kids. But still I love to serve and volunteer in roles outside of my church. I’ve just begun to realize my own limitations and #3 in your list is something I’m going to evaluate carefully in the next week. You’re right, we can’t give ourselves to everything because so much time is needed to truly be effective. I’m going to limit myself to one major volunteer role and one minor one.

    Thanks for your help,

    Rich

    • http://jillsavage.org Jill Savage

      Rich, my husband and I planted a new church 11 years ago. It was during that season…with 5 children at home…that I learned to apply these principles. I’ll be honest, it messed with some people’s perception of the “pastor’s wife,” because I said no more than I said yes, but I knew my first ministry was to my husband and my children. No one else could protect that, but me.

      One more thing…my husband was very disciplined in taking time for our marriage and family in those early years. We’d go to church planting conferences and I’d hear wives frustrated that they never saw their church planting husband. I didn’t feel that way at all because my husband learned to say no early in the process.

      I highly recommend Andy Stanley’s book “Choosing to Cheat” for church planting pastors and their wives!

      • http://2020visiononline.org Josh Hood

        I heard a great quote on this subject today: “If you can’t say no, then your yes doesn’t mean anything.”

  • http://colbybenjaminbrown.com Colby Brown

    This is a great post for leaders of all sorts. Thanks for sharing!

    • http://colbybenjaminbrown.com/2011/02/01/how-to-create-margin-during-overwhelming-times/ Colby Brown

      I recently wrote a post – “How to Create Margin During Overwhelming Times” – and #5 on my list is “Learn to say ‘No’.”

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the post! I love the line: I’m capable, but am I called?

    • http://2020visiononline.org Josh Hood

      I agree. That is a POWERFUL and PROFOUND question.

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com Cyberquill

    Reminds me of the old joke about the teenage daughter who got pregnant yet again. Her mother sternly rebukes her, “Didn’t I tell you to say NO next time a man approached you?” The teenage daughter responds, “I did, but this guy was so cunning—he asked me if I had any objections!”

  • http://twitter.com/obihaive Joseph Sanchez

    Great post. I especially like the part about not giving a long list of excuses. I always feel like doing this whenever I say no to someone/something.

    • http://jillsavage.org Jill Savage

      I think most of us do, Joseph. That’s why we need to know it’s ok to simply say, “Thanks for thinking of me, but it work work for me this time.” I’ve found that phrase quite freeing and empowering at the same time.

  • http://www.cdenning.com Chris Denning

    Great point. I think adding time to the equation helps us gain perspective and to truly think about how a decision will effect other prior commitments and priorities. I think knowing yourself and your priorities will help you to learn to say “no” better as well.

  • Lisa Copen

    Michael, I love Jill and shared this article with many. But also wanted to say how much I appreciate your blog. I am the founder of http://restministries.com that serves people with chronic illness and most all of your posts are exactly what I need to hear. In the spirit of trying to get more efficient and use my time most wisely, I just checked amazon’s kindle store for your blog and was thrilled to see it listed there! I’ve subscribed and will love getting to make sure I can read all the posts this way and yet stay focused while at the computer. Keep up the great work!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Lisa. I appreciate that!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Lisa. I appreciate that!

  • http://twitter.com/mrmarkmcdonald Mark McDonald

    Is there someone else?

    I found that people might ask me to do something because I was there in front of them or they wanted to tick a box. Asking the question “is there someone else?” does two things:

    1. You find out why they chose you for the task
    2. someone else might get their first opportunity to step up to another level.

    • http://twitter.com/B_Schebs B_Schebs

      This is a really great Idea and also shows that you do care about the idea, and want it to go well, but takes the responsibility off you for it.

  • http://peterpollock.com Peter P

    I wish you’d written this BEFORE I had a mental/emotional breakdown!

    It’s a great post but probably most shy little chickens like me who say yes to feel wanted will read this and have a heart attack at the thought of using any of your suggestions (like I did)!

    • http://jillsavage.org Jill Savage

      Put on your courage, Peter! You can do it!

      And if you haven’t read through the other comments, I encourage you to do so. I think it would give you some good perspective and balance out the fear a bit.

      • http://peterpollock.com Peter P

        Thank you, Jill.

        I’ll get to reading them today!

  • http://www.theconfidentmom.com theconfidentmom

    What a great way to choose where we need to spend our time. As a mom – I know that finding the balance with my time is very difficult, but when I truly allow for God to speak to me and I evaluate my true priorities BEFORE blurting a “yes” out, it works much better for everyone, most importantly my family. They come way before my PTA or church volunteering and even my business. Thanks for the reminder, it is always good.

  • http://www.heavenlyglimpses.blogspot.com Theresa

    Love it! I love step 3. That is a great gauge for me that I had never heard before. Thanks!

  • GailJo

    A handy way to say “no” to more work from a boss or leader is to to politely say “I can do this for you but what would you like me to take off my plate to free up the time to do this?” It helps them understand that your time is limited and you’re not just saying no to be annoying. I particular find this helpful in volunteer work.

  • http://www.brianhinkley.com Brian Hinkley

    In addition to never saying yes on the spot to thinking it over twenty-four hours and not to be confused with a giving a list of excuses. I often state that I need to talk things over with my wife.

    • http://jillsavage.org Jill Savage

      Good strategy, Brian!

  • Susancoleman824

    When I want to say “yes” too much, I do a self check. Most of the time I discover I’m stretching myself to compensate for feeling inferior in another area. Also, I picture myself whining to my family about how busy I am. That usually does the trick!

  • http://www.stilettosandgrace.com Angela White =^)

    Hmmm… I really agree with what Jill is saying here. Many times our inability to say no also springs from an insecurity toward the person who’s asking us to say yes. Keeping our priorities (and our security) in tact will banish that guilt/pressure load. However, I don’t agree with #3. Instead, I think taking the time to pray about each commitment before saying yes or no, and seeing what God has to say about it would be better in many situations. Having a flat “One major, one minor” policy can keep us away from other things God is asking us to participate in. I operate under the thought that, if God gives me peace about taking something on (If it’s a GOD thing, not just a GOOD thing), he will expand my plate to encompass it in a healthy way. I’ve seen this come true repeatedly through the years. We’re busy, but not in an unhealthy way.

    • JenM

      I agree. I’m reading this 3 years later. I have my hands full with 2 things God called me to. My husband reminds me, you can’t put 10 lbs of flour in a 5 lb bag.

      Just a few weeks ago I had determined that I couldn’t take anything else on for the next several months. But the very next day, God said YES to a ministry opportunity I had been praying about. So YES it is. But fortunately this won’t be very time consuming, and one of the other projects will be over in another month.

  • http://somewiseguy.com Some Wise Guy

    I think #1 is my biggest area of growth. Whenever someone asks me for a favor or to volunteer I feel like I have to give an answer right away even if the request is weeks or months in the future. Being married has helped because I have to check with my wife (a.k.a. the Social Director) before making any schedule commitments.

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  • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

    Wow. So much here that I need to learn. Being one of two staff members at a small rural church, it’s really hard to say no sometimes. People just don’t realize that the minister (s) can’t always do everything, nor should they. Tht’s a hard mentallity to break.

    Thanks for the input. This really helps to encourage me to select the best above the good, or worse. Thanks!

  • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

    Wow. So much here that I need to learn. Being one of two staff members at a small rural church, it’s really hard to say no sometimes. People just don’t realize that the minister (s) can’t always do everything, nor should they. Tht’s a hard mentallity to break.

    Thanks for the input. This really helps to encourage me to select the best above the good, or worse. Thanks!

  • Don Palmer

    If you are intentional about keeping your eyes open for needs to serve it is so easy to consume all the margin available and then some. The fourth point really stuck me. Is a 3/4 effort by me really for this new possibility in front of me?

    The people and efforts care about and wish to serve deserve the full measure. When the margin is small, I have to say no or re-prioritize.

  • http://twitter.com/ThatGuyKC K.C. Pro

    I’ve already made a mental list of people who need to read this.
    Thank you for addressing the need to give excuses. I find that is hard for me to say “no” without an excuse, but it only makes me look and feel ridiculous.

  • http://www.rowentree.com April Rowen

    This was so encouraging! I myself have been struggling in this area and working on a ‘No’ Post.

    I especially like Number 5: “Hit the delete button when guilt sets in.” I tend to hit the re-wind button and feel guiltier and guiltier with every re-play. Thank you for this post!

  • Anonymous

    I really needed this. I love #3. I need to keep this in mind. I’ve been saying “no” a lot and feeling guilty. Geoff’s comment also is a great reminder that Jesus didn’t do everything for everyone.

    • http://jillsavage.org Jill Savage

      Laura,

      Yes, when we look at Jesus’ life, we really can follow his example. He didn’t meet every need around him. He went to bed at night knowing that everything wasn’t “finished.” Wow…that is freeing if we can grasp it!

  • http://twitter.com/swiertz Sebastien Wiertz

    Jil,

    Nice post !

    I also treated the subject in a post titled ” The power to say no ! ”

    http://bexinfu.com/2010/01/24/the-power-to-say-no/

    I would love to hear your comments

  • karen

    My favorite strategy for saying “no” comes from Queen of the Castle, who distinguished between the Urgent and the Important; they’re not always the same! Often, when I’m tempted to say “yes,” I’ll take a moment to ask if the request is urgent or important. Usually, my kids’ requests for a bath towel are urgent, but not worthy of me dropping the spatula and leaving the pancakes to burn. Sounds simple, but I had never realized that often, I was saying yes to things that were urgent, but not necessarily most important at that moment. Of course, not everything we have to do must be important, but this distinction has also helped. :) Thanks for the great article!

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  • Bsewing

    Each day look over your commitments – children’s activities, spouse’s activities, church activities, personal activities. Then set the day, week or month as a “NO” day, “NO” week, or “NO” month depending on what is already on the commitment calendar and the length of time each will take. Before I’m even asked I know that my answer was “NO” and no further explanation is needed. If pressed for an explanation – “Today is a NO day (week or month), so I can spend more time with my family. You can ask me again next week (month) and I might be able to say yes.”

  • http://twitter.com/DanielBecerra Daniel Becerra

    I love your point on “You don’t have to say yes just because you are capable”. It reminds me of Jim Collins’ point of “don’t miss out on the great just because you can do the good”

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  • http://AandBCounseling.com Phyllis Tarbox

    As a Christian Counselor I applaud this blog. Too often I see people not praying first for God’s direction and it leads to frustration, resentment and bitterness. Learning to say no, takes perserverance because the people around you are not used to the new boundaries you will be settting. Chances are you will ruffle some feathers!
    Always take the time to pray first, and follow Gods peace. Fear and Guilt are not from God.

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  • Mtz6741

    I was asked to do something, because I’m capable, and I do not want to do it! Thank you for your article, it has helped me!:)

  • Sherryclark77

    I try to remember that my saying yes to an opportunity when I know I shouldn’t, could actually standing in the way of the growth into leadership that God s working in someone else.