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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