Why Saying “No” Is Important

2009 November 16
by Grace Boyle

It’s endearing when you say yes. It’s thoughtful and I believe that giving is an integral part of living. For me, it’s easier to say yes versus no.

Maybe that’s why I’m constantly on overdrive. Last week I not only worked my full-time job but I attended and volunteered at the Ladies Who Launch Leading Lady Awards in Denver on Thursday (afterward I headed back into the office to finish the workday). I continued on my sixth day of work, Saturday morning starting at 7:45 AM as a photographer’s assistant for a friend that needed help with a photo shoot. This was my second Saturday in a row working with her.

stressPhoto Credit

I’m not the exception, we’re all busy but reflecting on my life, my friends look at me like I’m crazy. I frequently have to say, “Sorry, I can’t make dinner,” as they all comfortably sit down together to a home cooked meal and relax mid-week.  I’m volunteering, catching up on e-mails, putting contacts in touch with my contacts, being a photographer’s assistant, helping Ladies Who Launch, teaching someone how to start a blog, staying on top of my blog and oh right, working at my full-time job.

Prioritizing to Decrease Your Stress Level

Research shows that saying “yes,” causes stress and learning to say “no,” helps keep your commitments and priorities in check. Easier said than done.

Caitlin McCabe talks about learning When To Do Things for Free and When Not To. She includes a fantastic list of when to do things for free and when to charge. I commiserate with her. I usually say yes to every guest blog post, every event, volunteer opportunity and whenever someone asks for help (professionally and personally). It’s not as though I forget my worth or value but I think I can be superwoman and help everyone.

But I can’t.

I know I’m strong. I know I do more than most of the people around me, but there comes a breaking point. If I begin to sacrifice my personal well-being and spread myself thin over twenty projects versus managing myself properly and working on four meaningful projects, I think I should step back and find the risk vs. reward.

Slowly but surely I have begun to say, “No.” It feels really good. It feels really honest.

Just last week a friend at a startup asked me to help rewrite a press release for their team. They budgeted compensation and at first, I said, “Of course, I would be happy to help.” Then (I should have done this prior) I took a look at my schedule and priorities and realized I didn’t have the resources or time to complete the project. I got back to them and apologized that I had to turn down their offer. I wanted to be fair with not only my time, but their own.

Deep breath. Baby steps. I was being honest and in doing so, I set myself free.

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  • http://www.opheliaswebb.com Elisa Doucette

    I literally sat down at the end of October to budget out every minute of every day that I spend. Down to sleeping/eating/grooming and…oh yeah…”Personal Time.” (PS – I have allocated myself 9 hours out of the full 168 available weekly hours to “Personal Time)

    Caitlin's post was awesome, because it came from someone who struggles to build a name for herself without losing herself in the process. I feel like that is the worst part of always saying “yes.” Eventually you are no longer you, you become what everyone else wants/needs/etc. And THAT is the most stressful piece of it all!

  • bethoc

    This is a really wonderful testament to the fact that many of us say yes as if on instinct. We react this way because it is in our nature to do for others, maybe even more than we do for ourselves.

    I think its definitely great that you have such a diverse array of interests – and that you make time for people, but that learning to say no is all part of the process of figuring things out, and trying to stay on the path that will lead you to where you really want to be.

  • http://tomaszgorecki.com/ thomas

    we all have 24 hours in a day, and there is only so much we can do. On top of that, we need to look at things that will give us most value, happiness, etc.

  • http://jackieadkins.com Jackie Adkins

    I'm a lot like you, Grace, and find it really tough to say “no.” I'm a sucker for people who say they need my help and usually am afraid that if I say no it will hurt their feelings or put them in a bind. However, what I've come to find is that the majority of the time, if you say no, they'll just let it run right off their back and be fine with it. I think that once you realize that people will not be mad at you for saying no, it's a lot easier to do.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Thomas It's true, we all live with the same hours. Sometimes picking and choosing can be the difficult part.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Jackie I hadn't really thought about why it's hard for me to say “no.” A big part probably is because I want to help everyone. I may not worry about hurting their feelings, but just like asking for help, people are more willing or understanding than we think. Furthermore, if they're not understanding why would you want to say “yes” to them in the first place? Thanks for sharing :)

  • http://www.lifeschocolates.com sameve

    Grace: I totally applaud your self-realization! I've started to discover that I put others before myself far too often. All of a sudden, I looked around and realized I wasn't entirely happy with my life. And that's not okay! I love helping other people and being there for them, it's a great feeling to be able to say yes. But, you're totally right, sometimes we have to say no for our own wellbeing. Deep breath. Baby steps…that's what I'm doing too, and every little bit counts. Great post!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Sam Good, I liked hearing how many people resonated with this. We're not alone. Just like a lot of people have trouble asking for help…we've all been there. Keep it up and keep listening to what you need :)

  • http://twitter.com/RdGarnet Cheila Esquilin

    Wow, this is the first time I've stumbled to this blog and I'm really liking it. Great first impression I have to say. I think I'm a follower now :)

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Cheila Thank you! I'm happy you stopped by. I always appreciate reader feedback. If you have any questions, thoughts or just want to say hello, feel free to e-mail me anytime. I'm gracekboyle at gmail dot com

  • http://www.ryanjknapp.com Ryan Knapp

    Great post Grace. I struggle with this everyday. I hate saying no to anyone because I truly try to help everyone out I can in this world, but often it just causes unneeded stress on my part and I end up doing things late.

    Now instead of saying yes, I try to find someone else who may be able to help and to make a new connection between people. That way at least the work is getting done and I might have made a new connection.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Ryan You're right, it's a constant struggle. It was good hearing feedback, almost everyone who RT and commented here felt the same. I LOVE how you bring up finding someone else who fill the shoes or complete the job that you've just said “no,” to. Great point!

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  • http://lifeisbutastage.wordpress.com/ Robert

    I too, used to find it a challenge to say no. I was always trying to please and help people. What helped me was realizing that everytime I said yes to something or someone that I was also saying no to myself.And when I said yes, I was also agreeing to the other baggage that came along with it. After that I think about what I want to experience. If I say yes to driving her around I'm saying no to getting some more sleep or yes to her using my gas. It's a whole lot of trade-offs, but it helps to keep it in mind

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Robert You're right, we must think of the trade-off when we say yes versus no. We tend to forget to listen to ourselves. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.blogspot.com Grace Boyle

    @Robert You're right, we must think of the trade-off when we say yes versus no. We tend to forget to listen to ourselves. Thanks for sharing!

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