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Setting Boundaries

June 28, 2012

We often say “yes” to some projects, tasks or meetings when we really should be saying no. ImageIt’s up to us as an individual to set our own boundaries. At times we say “yes” because:

  • We want to help
  • We don’t like being rude
  • We don’t like conflict
  • We worry if you say ‘no’ this time they may not ask you again
  • We  feel you may be offending others
  • We  feel someone might not like you

We often find it more difficult to say “no” to a request from an adult. That can be because we all like to help and contribute, and that should be important, but it needs to be balanced with our other urgent and important tasks.

When we’re clear on our priorities, it gives us the courage to say ‘no’ in a pleasant way.  The key is learning the right way to say ‘no’. Once I developed this skill, I realised it wasn’t difficult at all and other people are actually very understanding.

A number of statements and phrases that are worth using include:

  • “I have a prior commitment”
  • “I’m overextended right now.”
  • “I can’t commit to this at the moment because of my other priorities”
  • “Sorry, can’t. Let me know how it goes.”
  • “I’m tempted, but I’ll have to pass.”
  • “I don’t have experience with that.”
  • “I would rather decline than do a mediocre job.”
  • “I’d love to say yes, but I can’t.”
  • “I’m honoured, but this is a busy time, and I won’t be able to fit it in.”
  • “You’re good at that; you shouldn’t have any trouble finding someone to help.”
  • “You know I’d never refuse you if I could help it. I’m swamped right now.”
  • “Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you.”
  • “We’re overcommitted – perhaps you could hire a temp for that.”
  • “I can’t do that, but I can suggest a few people who might be able to help you
  • “I’d love to help you with this. Which of my current projects should I delegate to another person in order to take this on?”

So next time someone asks you to help them take a moment before you answer.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “A ‘No’ uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or what’s worse, to avoid trouble.”

Learning to say “no” is a very simple but effective time and stress and time management tool.  It’s important to remember than whenever you say “yes” to something, you’re effectively saying “no” to something else – it may be your free time, an extra twenty minutes sleep, exercising time or family time. These are real motivational factors to understand why you should be saying “no”.

Make it a new habit to stop and think before you automatically say “yes” to a request; at least this way you’re making a conscious decision and are fully aware that you’re giving up something else.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 28, 2012 1:42 pm

    I’ve recently learned the great value in saying no to things that don’t either bring you happiness, money or outside of your expertise. Especially when you own your own business, time becomes your most valuable asset that you must protect.

    • June 29, 2012 12:35 am

      Completely agree Stephanie. Great to see you have very clear boundaries – happiness, money or outside of your expertise!

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