Reality Check: I Regret that I Cannot…

Last post, I suggested that one way to reduce stress is to create habits for on-going chores. Assigning a specific time to mundane activities can reduce the perception of never being caught up. Chores don’t take over your life!

How is that helpful? It’s so you can make room and time for what really does matter. It’s your choice whether your priority is building a snow fort with your kids, learning Spanish, or volunteering in your community. The point is that we never get to our high priorities if we are swamped doing low-priority activities.

For some, a contributing factor to the “no time for what matters” issue is dealing with requests. Folks find themselves asked to do things that they really don’t value or have time for, but can’t figure out how to refuse.

What can follow is the feeling of being drawn into a commitment that’s more time-consuming and strenuous than expected. Even when it’s a good cause, you may end up resenting the activity, the people involved, and your own agreement to participate. It’s a lose-lose.

Why do people agree to do things when they don’t want to? There are some excellent reasons. For example, we may want to be perceived as a nice person and think we’ll look unkind or selfish if we refuse. Perhaps we think that if we don’t agree, no one will ever do anything for us. Perhaps we simply haven’t figured out how to say “no” in a gracious way. 

Choice theory concerns both relationships and personal freedom. If you are struggling with how to decline a request, it’s likely because you care about the relationship.

When the relationship doesn’t matter much to you, it’s easier to say “no.” Ask anyone who has worked at a call center whether the people they call have any difficulty saying “No!” You’ll probably learn that when people don’t care about the relationship, they have no problem refusing a request.

It’s more challenging when you do care about the relationship. Say your friend asks you to look after her children for the weekend. You don’t want to. What to say? Here are some suggestions.

  • Give an answer. It might seem easier to hem and haw and say, “Let me get back to you,” but is that really kinder? She doesn’t know your answer, but may think there’s a possibility that you’ll agree.
  • Respond simply and clearly. If your response is, “Hmm, I have to take my cat for her pedicure that weekend,” your friend still doesn’t know whether you will or won’t babysit. More effective: “I’m sorry; I won’t be able to do that.” It’s a clear refusal; she needs to look elsewhere.
  • Stay positive. Remember that despite your refusal, you want to maintain a good relationship. “I hope you are able to find childcare for the weekend.”

A simple “formula” for saying no is, “Thank you for asking. However, I’m sorry I can’t …..  I hope that you find a way to get it done.”

Do you find it difficult to say no? Do you end up resenting your agreement?  Let me know

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