Busier than ever? Here’s all you need to know about saying ‘no’. Posted on December 6, 2018December 6, 2018 by Peter Meadows It’s probably the thing I’ve most heard from those no longer in full-time paid employment – ‘I’ve never been so busy’. But it is seldom said with relish and joy. What’s going on? Why are so many of us saying ‘yes’ to demands on our time when the opposite is what we really have in mind? And what can we do about it? Here come my six rules to help you say ‘no’ and the four big reasons why it’s so hard to do so. Six simple rules to help you say ‘no’ A fresh request for your time or help can come in one of three different ways. So be on the lookout for the ‘ask’ the ‘nag’ and the ‘ambush. The ‘ask’ is simply a ‘please’. The ‘nag’ is a ‘please, please, please’, and the ambush is when you are totally distracted and they sneak it in while off guard. Parents go through this with their children. It can also happen to us in our adult afterwork life – from family, friends, church and more. Which is why you need to be clear, no matter how the request comes, that – You have a life to live too: This means you have as much right to say ‘no’ as they have to ask. You are under no obligation. And that even extends to caring for grandchildren. Love them though you do, you did not choose to have them and have every right to make your own decisions about them. It’s okay to ask for time to think it over. If the delivery of an outright ‘no’ seems too much, take the heat out of the situation. Try a response something like ‘I don’t think that’s going to be possible but let me check and get back to you’. Offer a trial run. Sometimes a request for a seemingly never-ending commitment can leave you unsure – with a ‘no’ being too definite and a ‘yes’ the same. So, reply along the lines of ‘Can we give it a try for a few weeks and then review it on both our sides?’. Never fudge. If you know the answer should be ‘no’, have the courage to say so for the sake of all concerned. You don’t have to justify your decision and the more you try to the deeper entrenched you’ll get. All that’s needed is an ‘I’m sorry but much as I’d like to that’s not going to be possible’. Having said ‘no’, leave the area. When you deliver your answer then either change the subject or move away – fast. The longer the ask is part of the conversation the more confusing it is for both of you and more likely you’ll recant. Offer a compromise. Perhaps you can’t go the whole hog but could still do something and would wish to do so. Then try ‘Sorry, that’s not possible. But what I could do is . . . . ‘. However, be sure that’s really what you want to do. Why is it so hard to say ‘no’? Having read the above you may already be saying ‘if only’ it was that easy. I understand. There are solid reasons why saying ‘no’ can be daunting – and here are some of them. We fear the reaction of the other person. By saying ‘no’, will the other person like us less or even feel we don’t like them? Will we come over as selfish, thoughtless or unkind? There’s no reason for any of this to be true. Saying ‘no’ is only refusing a request and nothing more. We wrongly believe our value is in what we do. That could have been how it was in the past – in our workplace, whatever that may have been. And it’s easy to carry such wrong thinking into our new afterwork era. Much of our busyness – and failure to say ‘no’ – can stem from a subconscious need to feel loved and valued. In the new ‘free-grazing’ world of afterwork this can be even more so. And that can have the outcome of us trying to fill the gaps by saying ‘yes’ too often. That is why we need to discover a greater confidence we are cherished and appreciated by God and others. This would deliver us from the pressing need to ‘do’ in order to gain approval. We fail to recognise saying ‘yes’ to ‘this’ means saying ‘no’ to ‘that’. Time does not expand to accommodate each new commitment we make. If only! But it’s a reality we too often deny – like good old King Canute trying to hold back the waves. Each day remains twenty-four hours long, no matter how many extra promises tumble from our well-meaning lips. Time is one of the most precious resources at our disposal and every new ‘yes’ can mean having to say ‘no’ to something else. We have not nailed down what we will say ‘yes’ to. Think of it this way – shouldn’t Jesus have been the most overworked person to have walked the planet? So many were in desperate need of what only he could deliver. Yet he never seemed to canter or break out into a sweat. How come? After all, think of Jesus making his way steadfastly to Jerusalem. It takes little imagination to reconstruct the possible words of his disciples walking the same road. ‘Master, there is a village close by where many need to be healed.’ ‘There is a distraught family, Master, where you could bring such a change.’ Yet Jesus kept going to Jerusalem. How was that possible? Because he knew what he had already said ‘yes’ to. And the clearer we are about our own ‘Jerusalem’ the freer we will be to say ‘no’. What do you do that helps you say no? Please share it – here and on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you. Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.