Yes, you can come over to hang out during my kids’ nap time.
Yes, I will watch your dog the weekend that my sister’s family is coming to town.
Yes, I can pay for lunch again.
Yes, I will do the dishes for the entire extended family without any help and after cooking dinner.
Does this sound like you? Are you the one always giving in? Always saying yes? Always putting others first? That was me. It was exhausting and it left me resentful and angry. And then one day I was pushed over the edge. I didn’t flip out on anyone or have a nervous break down. I just realized that enough was enough and sometimes I needed to say no.
No, I will not watch your kids when I have already made plans.
No, I will not skip the gym to go to dinner with you.
No, I will not be travelling for the holidays this year.
No, I will not create the powerpoint that you are supposed to make for the meeting tomorrow.
So how do I do it? Ho do I say no? And how can you say no too? I wish I could say it is simple. But the truth is, it isn’t. It’s really hard. It goes against my nature to put myself first. Plus, as a christian, I am supposed to say yes, be generous, and put others first. Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Matthew 22:37-39). How can I be a good christian if I say no to others and don’t help every person that needs my help? If I don’t love my neighbor as myself?
You see, we easily overlook a key part of what Jesus said. He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Not, love your neighbor more than yourself or better than yourself. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It is so simple to overlook it but it is right there. Jesus doesn’t want us to sacrifice our happiness and peace in order to treat others kindly. He wants us simply to treat them as we treat ourselves. It isn’t meant to be a bother or exhausting or defeating. It is meant to encourage us to stay connected to each other in fellowship.
According to Merriam-Webster, the term fellowship means “a friendly relationship among people…who share interests or feelings; a company of equals.” I love that second definition: “a company of equals.” Is it equal when you are always the one sacrificing your time, money, and energy? No, it isn’t. These are the times you need to say no.
You don’t have to say no all the time or to everything. And you shouldn’t. We need each other, we need people, and we need help. We should say yes to lots of things and not all of those things will benefit us. We should watch a friends kids so she can go out with her husband. We should buy another friend a cup of coffee when she is having a hard week. We should serve each other by cooking, cleaning, and listening when we get the opportunities. But we should NOT do these things at the cost of our generous nature, inner peace, and relationship with the other person.
So, the next time you find yourself at a yes/no crossroads do this.
Nine steps to say no:
- Take time before you answer. Even if it is a few minutes or a couple days, take time. Say, “let me get back to you when I know for sure.” This takes the pressure off. Then the ball is in your court to bring the conversation up and answer later.
- Think about the past. Do you ever say no to this person? If you do, how do you feel after? When you say yes to them how do you feel? Would they understand if you did say no?
- Think about the future. Although your relationship is already established at this point, everything you do continues to mold it. What kind of relationship do you have, as compared to what kind you want to have with this person? If the relationship isn’t one of equality, do you want it to be? Of course you do! This may be a time to say no.
- Think about your family. You may have to say no to someone else in order to say yes to your spouse, children, and yourself. No to you, but yes to less stress and a happier more engaged mom. No to you, but yes to more quality time with your spouse. No to you, but yes to the daily duties of a housewife.
- Pray. Praying is so crucial. Discerning God’s will is imperative to making the right choice. Do this through prayer, reading the word, and being still and quiet. When the Lord is on your side, who can stand against you?
- Talk to someone you trust. Maybe your spouse or best friend? Someone to tell you when you are right and when you are wrong.
- Plan your words. Know exactly what you want to say. Rehearse your words out loud with that trusted person. Consider the best and worst-case scenarios of possible responses and plan for that. Also note that their responses will most likely fall somewhere in between best and worst-case and plan for that as well.
- Implement and stick to your plan. Now that you have taken time and kept the ball in your court it is time to say yes, no, or somewhere in between. Either way you need to reach out and talk to the person. This should be in a phone call or in person. It is not the time for texting! This will prevent any misunderstandings. Also, if you are planning to say no, do not avoid the person. Be the one to bring up the topic, this will help you to set the tone and to say what you planned. After you say no, wait for their response. Be careful after this point! If this is someone you have never said no to they are probably going to be surprised and not want to take not for an answer. Just keep repeating your original statement. Literally, repeat and repeat. Do NOT change your message or you can get tripped up and end up agreeing to something you did not plan to. The less you veer from your script the better.
- Congratulate yourself and notice how you feel. When you stick to your instincts and say no when it is the right thing to do you will feel good. You will feel calm, confident, and relieved. This is how you should always feel when you are treating others as yourself and saying no when necessary.
I hope this helps you on your journey of learning how to say no and when to say no. If you think this post may help you learn to assert yourself and say no, you may to subscribe to receive more “for the unassertive” posts like this. I will be posting on this topic weekly and will be grounding what I write in scripture.
Have a blessed day.