Are you a people pleaser? If you are, you might find that you spend most of your time saying yes to everyone and everything asked of you, except, of course, yourself. You can end up being overwhelmed by your life, feeling a little resentful, and not really showing up for the very people you’re trying to please. The remedy? Learning to say no, guilt free.
I too am a people pleaser. I like everyone to be happy. A while back, I participated in Johnson & Johnson’s 3-day onsite Corporate Athlete Training Program, only to discover that my true passion in life is helping other people achieve their happiness. And for a long time I did that at the expense of my own happiness.
But, then I learned how to defend my time better by saying no in ways that I knew others could easily accept and I wouldn’t feel bad about. Because, 24 hours.
Here are the top four strategies I use to say no guilt free.
Strategy #1: Place the action on the askers. Often, I am contacted by entrepreneurial women who starting their own businesses, developing a product or new service offering, as I once did (for more on that read here), and they want to have coffee.
I love these women. They are amazeballs. They are the epitome of courage, strength and sheer brilliance, and I am a silent cheerleader in their corner with an abundance of mental support and a few prayers. I want to hug them everyday and spend endless hours strategizing action items. And, I can be persuaded to do so just by the promise of coffee.
But, I cannot coffee with everyone. So, I have found the polite way to minimize the overabundance of coffee talk is to first put the responsibility to move forward with our coffee on the asker by letting them come up with a date and time to meet.
A while back, I was in this coffee situation. And I found myself stressfully searching my calendar for any open period of 30 minutes for the coffee. I was racking my brain and my handheld, completely distressed trying to figure out how I could drop child A here for 1 hour and child B there for another in order to squeeze in this 30 minute coffee.
I stopped and thought to myself, this is insane. I can’t do this. So, I politely asked the asker to let me know when a good date and time for her to meet would be, and I never heard back. EVER. And, then I realized I was on to something. Everyone busy and frantically searching their calendars for a few spare minutes to share meaningfully with someone else.
So now, this is my go to guilt-free strategy for saying no and defending my time. I love it because I am not really saying no. Instead, I’m saying …
Is sitting down with me for 30 minutes high on your priority list? if it is, I’m there. Let’s do the coffee. If it isn’t, I still love you, just not over coffee.
I save coffee time for my besties where we do not talk about product development or starting businesses, just where we are going to hit the beach this summer. I heart coffee.
Strategy #2: Virtual coffee, aka a phone call. The best kinds of conversations often happen just over the phone. When life is maddening and you are struggling to figure out how you are going to take the extra 20 minutes to get somewhere for your playdate/girltalk/meeting/interview/principalconversation/whatever, suggest a call instead.
If you want to keep in intimate by being able to see each other, Skype or FaceTime. It’s a great alternative that allows you to say no guilt free by saying yes to a shorter commitment.
Strategy #3: Specialize. Despite everyone asking you to do all the things, you are not good at all the things. Only say yes to those things you are great at and, as a result, doing those things will have the likely side effect growing your happy.
I am not room mom or PTA material. I do not have the patience and endless caring that all the wonderful moms who room parent and PTA do. These are incredible people and I remain forever grateful to them and their awesome gifts. But, please do not ask me to room parent or PTA, because my answer is no.
Instead, however, I will absolutely chaperone a field trip, help set up an event, mystery read, decorate a teacher’s door, and even open my wallet for things that our classrooms need like teacher requested magazines. These are things I can and am happy to do.
Saying yes to some things allows you to say no to others guilt free. It takes a village, so use yours and know that no one in the village is walking around with massive guilt for doing only their part.
Strategy #4: Just Say No. This takes practice, a good understanding of your personal priorities at the moment and in your life overall, plus the help of some key phrase. I suggest standing in front of a mirror and saying the words out loud to yourself. Then, stepping it up and practicing with a friend or your husband, until eventually they roll off your tongue.
Here are a few possible ways to just say no guilt free:
- I would love to be able to help with _______, but I have too much going on at the moment to do it well. I’ll let you know when I have some time in the future when I could really contribute.
- I’m not the best person to help with this. Why don’t you ask ____?
- I’m afraid I can’t help you with this right now, but I know you can absolutely do it and make it a success.
- There is nothing more I would love than to do ______ with you today, but I am completely tied up. Let’s try again another time.
So, get some boundaries and successfully defend your time guilt-free. Because your YESES are precious, and precious should be in short supply.
Also, do not call me for coffee.
P.S. If you want to learn my technique for deleting things off my calendar and saying no each week to at least a few things, download the Stress Free Mama Weekly planner, which includes a single page dedicated to just this.