My high school English teacher, Mrs. Goffin, helped me fall in love with words. She tested her classes on 15 new words every week. I loved discovering words that I had never heard and learning to use them in everyday conversation. Three of my favorite words were:
- Legerdemain — a slight of hand like a magician uses
- Animadversion — an unfavorable comment or criticism
- Incontrovertible — not open to question or dispute
Sometimes people are taken off guard when I throw one of these words out in casual conversation. But there is a word that makes people shake their heads in surprise more than any other word. It’s a word that you know. It’s a word that you use infrequently.
People are often shocked when they hear the word, “no.”
For years, I could use words like disestablishmentarianism, but I could not bring myself to say “no.” I would feel overwhelmed when someone would ask me to participate in a task force at work. Or sign my kids up for another activity. Or teach another class at church. “No” is the easiest word in the English language to pronounce, but it’s the hardest to say.No is the easiest word in the English language to pronounce, but it’s the hardest to say. Click To Tweet
“No” is one of the keys to beating busyness. You say “no” to a thousand good opportunities so that you can say “yes” to the most purposeful opportunities. “No” is one of the keys to living with purpose, productivity, and peace.
But sometimes a friend or loved one asks you to do something, and they want a “yes.” Saying “no” to someone can harm that relationship. It can lead them to resent you if you say “no.” It can lead you to dislike them if you feel forced to say “yes.”
If you’re going to live with greater purpose, productivity, and peace, you need to learn to say “no” to people you love. Here are five loving-but-firm ways to say “no” when someone asks you to take on another commitment.
1. I will think about this and get back to you in 24 hours, but it is probably a “no.”
This answer gives you time to think through the decision. But it also lays a foundation for a “no.” This helps temper the person’s expectations while giving you time to consider if it is worthy of a “yes.”
2. I’m at my capacity with my commitments right now.
This says to the person “I cannot because I’m at the limit of what I can do.” This is a “soft no.” It is a way of affirming your interest in the opportunity while declining because of your inability.
Admitting that you have limits is not weakness; it’s wisdom. Only God has no limits, and you aren’t Him. So acknowledge your limits, and let them help you say “no.”Admitting that you have limits is not weakness; it’s wisdom. Click To Tweet
3. This is a great opportunity. But I’m not the right person for it.
You have passions and talents. It’s your responsibility to steward them. “No” is an act of stewardship. You say “no” to opportunities that don’t fit your talents and passions so that you can give more time and energy to those that do fit.
Acknowledge that the opportunity sounds great. But let them know up front that your passions and/or talents don’t fit the opportunity.
4. This is a great opportunity. But it’s not the right time.
Sometimes you’ll be presented with the right opportunity, and you’ll be the right person for the opportunity. But it won’t be the right time for the opportunity. This happened to me when I was working on my doctorate. I was invited to participate in a task force at work. I really wanted to do it. But I knew that it would be too much. I needed to say, “No for now but not forever.”
5. I need to decline in order fulfill the roles and commitments that God has called me to focus on.
This is similar to number 2, but it’s about priorities, not capacity. It reminds the person that God has called you to some commitments. And because He called you to them, He desires for you to give your best to them.
Every unnecessary “yes” diminishes your ability to do your best. Choose your commitments wisely.Every unnecessary “yes” diminishes the ability to do your best. Choose commitments wisely. Click To Tweet
6. Since this is a decision that both of us have to make, can we pray and discern this together?
This answer invites the other person into the discernment process. Most people have not prayed and discerned about asking you to make a commitment. They simply thought of you and asked.
This statement invites the asker into the discernment process with you. Make sure they know that both of you must agree to a “yes.” Mutual discernment is similar to a dating relationship—both of the partners have to agree that it’s right to be together. If one partner doesn’t sense the relationship is right, then the answer is “no.”
Saying “no” to people who ask you to make a commitment is hard. But it’s a critical skill if you’re going to defeat busyness and live with purpose, productivity, and peace. “No” is not easy. But it’s necessary. Your “no” needs to be incontrovertible. These five responses can help you learn to say “no” in gentler ways that maintain your relationships.
Questions: Is there someone who you need to say “no” to today? Which of these will you use to respond to them?