Five Ways to Elegantly Say No

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Graceful strategies to protect your time and energy

As much as we would love to believe we're Superwoman and our time and energy are infinite, it's just not true. Does this sound like you? Somebody makes a request. You make a commitment. But then you make another. And another. Before you know it, you're making yet another commitment. It’s a never-ending cycle. Now you're spread so thin with all the things you feel you should do that your work, relationships, charitable causes, personal desires, etc., begin to suffer. Hello, burnout!

It's all well and good for someone to advise you to just say no, but exactly how to do that can be challenging. Here are several elegant strategies you can employ to reduce your stress and save your precious time and energy.

"I Need to Think About It."

This response gives you a chance to consider whether you want to become involved. To prevent repeated requests before you come back with an answer, indicate how long it will take before you respond. It buys you time, but you ultimately still have to decide.

"I'm Not the Best Person to Help You with This."

If you realize you're not the woman for the job, just say so. Consider explaining why so they understand you really don't have what they need and you're not trying to put them off. If you do know someone who has the ability or experience, though, facilitate the connection. If it works out well, both people will be grateful.

"I'd Love to, but Now Isn't a Good Time."

This is the perfect response for when your plate is full, because it shows you'd be willing to help if you had the capacity. You could then offer to contact them as soon as some space in your schedule becomes available, which shows how much their request (and they) really do matter to you.

"I'm So Sorry; I Can't."

When said with grace, you'll find that a direct answer isn't as harsh as you imagine. Actually, giving people decisive responses rather than holding them and their requests hostage because you are afraid of offending them is better all around. And practice makes perfect. Each time you can unhesitatingly say, "I'm so sorry; I can't," saying no becomes easier to do.

“I'm Not Able to Do XYZ, but What if I Did ABC?”

Counter-offers can be a perfect solution. You're not exactly saying no outright; you are offering something else. Then if they decline your counter-offer, you can confidently give them a firm no, because you offered a solution which they rejected.

Declining requests won't be easy at first, but remember, saying no doesn't make you selfish or bad in any way. (The people who care about you will more than likely understand, anyway.) It will also mean you can help those you really desire to. In the words of Four Hour Work Week author, Tim Ferriss, "What you don't do determines what you can do." So stand in your power, and know every decision you make regarding your time and energy is totally up to you!