Saying no can be tough (you just want to help!), but when you’re as busy as we know you are, it’s also necessary. Overextending yourself not only makes you miserable; it diminishes the quality of your work and makes you not so fun to be around. Here, five solutions for saying no more often.
Take time to think
For a certain type of person (ahem, people pleasers), “yes” is your default—especially if you’re caught off guard. That’s why you need to train yourself to think before responding. Tell your friend you’ll give her a definite answer tomorrow, then decide if this is something you really want to do or not.
Don’t make empty promises
We’ve all been there: You run into an old acquaintance, chat for a minute and part with a “Let’s get drinks soon,” when you don’t mean it. Instead of having to come up with an excuse when “soon” comes, don’t make offers you don’t want to follow up on. It’s OK to end a conversation with a simple “It was great to see you!”
Here’s a genius little trick we learned recently. Pencil in time for yourself on your calendar, even if you don’t have a scheduled meeting or appointment. Setting aside time to get your stuff done will make you less likely to blow it off and also makes it way easier to say no to any conflicting events or meetings.
Tell a white lie
We’re not advocating anything pathological, but there are definitely instances in which it’s OK to tell a little fib. Maybe not for major asks, but for small requests here or there, it’s totally fine to blame your non-participation on a nonexistent lunch with your mother-in-law.
A vague “no” can come across as a little shady, so with friends, family and co-workers, it’s best to be transparent. Say your friends are planning a trip to the Maldives, but you can’t swing it financially. Instead of giving a wishy-washy response, reach out to the pal leading the charge and tell her the truth. This way, it won’t seem like you just don’t feel like going and you’ll be invited again next time.