A friend came to me recently with a problem. Someone had asked her to crash at her house for a few days. No real reason given. No explanation. Just wanted to crash and stay at her place.
Normally, my friend might have said yes, but her gut response was to say no.
The potential house crasher wasn’t a really close friend. Plus my friend is healing from a concussion and has to be very careful about her environment or run the risk of re-triggering her concussion symptoms.
Even taking that into account, my friend felt bad about saying no.
We’ve all been there before. We’ve all had to ask for help. We can empathize precisely because we want to receive help if we ask for it.
Saying “no” can make us feel like a villain. And who wants to feel that way?
However, the best help we can give is the help that doesn’t over-extend us.
The focus then shifts from “How do I say no?” to “Is it ok to say no?”
The answer is usually yes!
1. Just Say No
This first point might seem obvious, but it can be the hardest for people. It means actually saying no. Not beating around the bush. Not delaying. Definitely not ignoring the request.
Firmly and politely say no.
Once you say “no”, you’ll have the momentum to follow through on your “no.” It’ll be easier to reinforce your “no”.
2. Thank them
One of the ways you can soften the blow, is to thank them for thinking of you. That it means a lot that they came to you for help.
3. Suggest different alternatives
Often, if I say no to people wanting help with a project, I’ll do a quick search and find an article that helps address their need.
Sure, they could have done this search on their own. I always assume best intentions: that people feel overwhelmed and are doing the best they can.
Sending them an article empowers them to take action and help solve their problems in a different way.
4. Offer a brief reason why
This one is more iffy, only because you don’t want to give the person ammo to dismantle your no. I might give a reason why for closer family and friends who reach out to me.
I might include a short reason about how my week is busy or that I’m swamped with other work and don’t want to overcommit and underdeliver.
You don’t have to go into your full life story. In fact, don’t.
Keep it simple. Keep it true. That way, you stay authentic and also in a place of respect.
This is a huge concern for most people. And it makes complete sense.
We’re social creatures, after all. Thousands of years ago, if we damaged a relationship, we might run the risk of being forced out of our tribe. Being ostracized might mean certain death!
It’s good to take a step back and reflect: what’s the worst that can happen?
Beyond that, it helps to review what kind of relationships you want to have in your life.
Do you want to be surrounded by high achievers? Successful people who are creative and focused on problem solving?
If your answer, like mine, is yes there are some good points to consider.
Do you ever put all of your eggs in one basket? Doing that is extremely risky! One little stumble and all of a sudden you have a sidewalk omelette!
Think about this way: do you have to accept every gift that someone gives you?
Of course not!
That includes the gift of other people’s problems.
When someone approaches you asking for things that are beyond your means or inclination, they are, in a sense, trying to share their problems with you.
You don’t have to accept the gift of their stress! You don’t have to make other people’s problems your problems!
Ultimately, my friend wanted to be reassured that she was still a good person for saying no.
She used these steps to say no firmly and politely, pointing the potential house crasher to public resources for further assistance.
The moment of saying “no” was unpleasant but it passed very quickly. My friend felt better for recognizing and respecting her own boundaries!
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