If you’re a natural helper, one of the hardest things to do is knowing when and how to say “no”.
Handily, you have a built-in signal for when to say “no”. A sensation of overwhelm is a signal that you’re operating at too high a level. You’re like a car that’s revving too hard. You gotta upshift.
There’s two ways to do that:
Within your inner space or within your external space
I talked about how to do this within your inner space last week. Check out THIS VIDEO CLIP for 4 steps that will allow you to break free of an overwhelming thought loop.
In your external space, it means doing less. And a key component of doing less, is
Knowing when and how to say no
So you’ve got that sensation: overwhelm. And a pal asks you for a hand. You really want to help, because you’re a natural helper and being generous is a key part of who you are. But you’re already overwhelmed so you know that helping is gonna cost you. You’ll get sick. The quality of your work will suffer. You won’t be present for your kids and relationships. You’ll start snapping.
You know you should say no. But you don’t want to let them down. And you don’t want to be a bad person for not helping. Being generous is a core value of yours, after all.
But there is a collapsed distinction at play
Your core value of generosity is collapsed with the belief that if you say no, you are not helpful. Or with the belief that you’re not a good person if you don’t help. In fact, you can still be helpful, and are still a great person, by saying no when it’s appropriate. You just need a trick for saying it and feeling better about it.
So here’s the trick. It’s inspired by the book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk. I got the idea of using this book from Simon-freakin’-Sinek when I saw him speak last fall. He uses techniques from this book to teach leaders in large organizations to communicate better (really!).
- Say “I wish I could help you with __x__” (because you do, because you’re a natural helper)
- Then validate the importance of their request like this “because I hear how much you need that right now”
- And then say “I can’t because” plus 2-4 words for why “I’m sick/ don’t have the bandwidth / have family in town”
You don’t need to build a case for why you can’t help. You don’t need to prove it to a friend. A real friend will understand. You can help them when you’ve got your bandwidth back. And then you’ll actually be properly useful.
I’d love to hear from ya in the comments below. Do you say yes to help out when you know you should say no? What resonated most about this trick for saying no?