Recently I was reading an article in a well-known magazine giving tips on how to say ‘no’ when you are asked to commit or do something you just can’t take on at the moment. The article did offer a lot of valuable tips on how to politely decline, and as I was reading, I thought, would this article be necessary if people were more in tune with how and when they make requests of others?
There are mixed signals in our culture that make saying yes and no both positive and negative, which can put a lot of stress and pressure on all of us to give the ‘right’ answer when asked to take on more. Psychology Today published an article this year called ‘Why So Many People Just Can’t Say No’, and on the other hand we have books that focus on ‘How to Get People to Say Yes’.
All of this talk about yes and no got me thinking about the seemingly simple, everyday requests I make of people-
Can you pick up some milk at the store for me?
Would you walk the dog this afternoon?
Could I drop my kids off at your place for an hour or so while I run to an appointment?
Do you have time to go to lunch tomorrow?
Will you bake cookies for the fundraiser?
Are you attending the recital this weekend?
Why don’t you stop by this weekend?
The list goes on and on of the requests we make of others on a regular, if not daily basis. Do we stop to think about how we are phrasing these requests, or if we are unintentionally causing stress and putting pressure on those around us to answer with a ‘yes’, when they really need to say no?
As I considered this, I realized that just two changes to my approach when asking people for commitments could relieve pressure they may feel, and eliminate the need for them to try and come up with a polite way to answer ‘no’ on the spot.
Think before you ask. Consider what you know about the person, their current obligations, what is going on in their family life and if their personality is more inclined to say yes, even it they are already overwhelmed with responsibilities. More than likely, they aren’t the only person around who can help you with whatever it is you need, and respecting the commitments they already have by not piling on more is what a true friend and family member should do.
Give them a way to say ‘no’ easily. If you think they are a good candidate for your request, by all means, ask away, but be sure you give them a comfortable way to say ‘no’ if they need to. This can be done by being intentional about how you phrase your requests-
“Are you available to go out to lunch tomorrow? Or we could try next week if that would work better.”
“The fundraiser is coming up on Tuesday, if you don’t have any plans would you mind baking some cookies?”
“Jane is having her recital this Saturday at 2pm, if you’re able to make it, that would be wonderful.”
By adding an ‘if’ into the questions, I feel like it allows people to decline when they just can’t commit to the request, whatever their reason is. As a promoter of living an intentional lifestyle, I want to help others live their own intentional life as well. By removing the pressure from them to say yes to my requests, it helps give them the freedom to live in a way that is most important to them.
So, IF you feel inclined to comment, how do you handle requests from others that you can’t fulfill? Do you still say yes, or have you found a way to say no?