Learning to Say No

Phyllis Lifestyle 55 Comments

One of the things I’m working on is saying “no,” when there is something I really don’t want to do but feel pressured or urged to do by a friend or colleague. I usually like to please people, and I find myself being obligated to do things I wish I had said no to. You get to where you are going and deep in your heart you wish you were anywhere else. But there you are. And whose fault is it? Mine. I said yes when my mind was saying no. So I’m learning to say no.

Now, I have said no to a couple of things, and I have to tell you—it is freeing. Let me say there are many wonderful things a person could be drawn to. However, just because there are a lot of delightful activities, it doesn’t mean we have to be involved in all of them. We just need to pick and choose what we are truly interested in and commit to that.

So when a friend asks you to join, be involved in, or participate in something, really think through saying yes. Guard your time. For every minute you spend doing something you really don’t want to do, you miss a minute of time that could be spent doing something you enjoy.

When I took a look at my time, I only wanted to be involved in things I really love. After taking my own advice, I found myself needing to drop out of some organizations. I have narrowed my activities down to two I really love, and I’m dropping out of three!

It’s liberating to really choose! I love looking at my calendar and seeing things I love to do. Saying no may mean saying no to relationships that are marginal. I want the people in my life to be the people I love being around, not people I have to tolerate. You know the ones; it just happens. I can remember with great relief when I dropped out of a ladies group where I really wasn’t happy, and I only went because it was expected of me.

On my journey of guarding my time, learning to say no is a big part of it. How about you? Please share these Ribbon posts with your friends. We want to reach as many as possible! 

Do you need to start saying no sometimes? Why or why not?

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Comments 55

  1. I have read your article with great interest because like you, I sometimes fill up my time with things I’d rather not be doing, just because someone convinced me it would be a good idea. From now on when I’m feeling no I will say no, instead of a regretful yes.

  2. The older we get, the easier it is to let things go….as someone said earlier….old friends we have moved away from, volunteering, chores and perfection. My daughter helped me to do this a year or so ago when she told me…”Ms Scarlett, tomorrow is another day.”
    I think of that when the day has come to an end and I didn’t accomplish all that I had planned…I now enjoy sitting down at lunch with my husband, coffee on one porch in the morning and a glass of wine on the other before dinner… we enjoy life just as it comes. It will all be there tomorrow…and in our world…manana.

  3. I was ill in 1992 with a blood clot in my brain and was told then that I was never to allow myself to have that type of stress again. I now care for my 93 year old mother and have the entire responsibility which is the reason I many times can’t be involved.

  4. Saying no is so hard for me, but I’m learning. The older my 3 boys get, the easier it is. I’ve also finally learned it’s much less stressful to just be a worker bee when volunteering. Good to know I’m not the only one that has a hard time with this. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Sometimes when we say no, it allows others who may not have stepped forward before, to say yes. It is also important to remember that if /when we say no to an activity or volunteer opportunity, that we not feel guilt if it falls apart or is never started. It just means that it was not a priority for anyone else. No guilt, ladies!!! If we truly search our hearts and feel stress or burdened or stretched too thin, the answer must be no. We do not have to explain it to others or justify it with ourselves! We cannot be a blessing when we are stressing, nor will we feel blessed when we are stressed! It always comes back to grace, grace given and grace received.

  6. On another note, as I have gotten older, I have found that on occasion, one must say goodbye or no to friendships that are no longer providing the caring, joy, or support that one needs.

    On that same note, both my husband and I have said “be gone with you” to old hurts and problems” caused by family.
    We found that asking God to take them into his hands and free us from its chain of sadness, disappointment and sometimes responsibility has been very freeing.

    We want to enjoy our retirement with each other , thus, to keep hanging onto issues that we could not change was enslavement. Since we have divested ourselves of a few friends and old family problems, we are so much happier. Our hearts are full of those people that truly care about us and we about them!

  7. YES!!! I’m taking “baby steps”…just moved rural after forty years in urban and immediately deluged with “need help here”…”need help there”… I’ve always said yes in the past…so far, I’m trying to keep my sanity straight…until “I’m ready!!” THANX!! franki

  8. I am a recent widow in a relatively new town to me. My husband and I moved here to be closer to our children when his illness progressed. After his passing, I was able to get back in church and have enjoyed it tremendously. However, I have learned quickly that I could be obligated just about every day of the week in some activity. After two years I have learned that I need to really pick and choose activities I really enjoy and look forward to, rather than feel obligated to participate. I’ve discovered that this frees up a lot of committed time and allows me to be more spontaneous in inviting a few friends over for tea, browsing antique shops, going on short day trips, or just enjoying a day by myself reading or doing needlework.

  9. Donna I guess we all feel that we want to please people and we don’t want to disappoint. But really we are the ones who lose when we say yes to wrong things.

  10. I am beginning to say no also, but it is not always easy because of the pressure of feeling I “ought” to do this or that. One was a book club that was totally dominated by one person’s schedule and her opinions. She would constantly criticize me rudely for every opinion of the book discussed that I had, and I thought I really didn’t need this. Dropping out was a huge relief. I also dropped out of a church women’s dinner group because the ladies in it were so very clique-ish and looked down on me because I am a teacher and did not live in a big, fancy house like they did. I kept thinking, “Why am I putting up with this?” Dropping out of that group has been a positive change and one I do not regret at all. Saying no is not always easy, but sometimes you just have to give yourself a GIFT-that is, surround yourself with positive people that are fun and intellectually-stimulating to be around. Life is way too short and precious to participate or be around the negative.

  11. I was “on school time and schedules” for 55 years, kindergarten – retirement. Last weekend we attended a beautiful 12th Night chorale concert, causing me to remember how much I miss music in my life. I introduced myself to the director and inquired into chorale membership: is a continuing ed class with tuition that meets 2 hours weekly each Monday starting Jan. 29. I walked away realizing I lived that regimen my whole life and no longer want that kind of commitment whereas once I was required to do so as a musician. It is liberating to follow your head.

  12. Dear friends:
    I am going to respond to this to the best of my ability. I have had a few people in my life who tend to be very negative. I have great compassion for these people and I try to show great maturity in interacting with them. I am an extremely positive person (probably my downfall) and spending extended time where there is gossip and negativity has its limits with me. I find it best to take time away from this kind of behavior on a regular basis. I usually have an appropriate cover story and have my car. I try to manifest the positive myself. Thankfully there have been only a few of these in my life. I prefer to love them from a distance. This was difficult to write because I have flaws too.

  13. WOW! Thank you Phyllis and those who answered your query today. In this fast moving world, I have found that I was juggling to survive. My mantra for 2018 and beyond is Simplify. I look forward to a better me, happier and fulfilled. I actually started to practice last year and found strength in saying no. Blessings to all.

  14. I signed up for a ladies Bible study last fall and after just a couple of weeks, wished I hadn’t. I don’t like the way the book is arranged. It is hard to work through all of it, just because it’s not organized well. It is a three book series and we are only half way through the second book. This study will tie up not just my Tuesday mornings through spring, but time each day as I work through the lessons. If it was a larger group, I would probably not continue, but there are only 6 of us and it is the first Bible study the leader has led. I don’t want to discourage her, so I will stick it out, but next time I will check into the materials more carefully before I commit.
    On another note, I have a small business serving afternoon tea parties in my home by appointment only. This past year I began to realize I was letting it control my schedule too much so that I didn’t have the time to spend with my grand children as much as I would like. I have decided to put boundaries around my time and not be afraid to tell people no when they contact me for a tea party.

  15. Such an important post for all of us in our world today. Not only for women – but I feel men also struggle with this issue as well. As we get older, we see how very precious our days actually are and we desperately want to use them wisely. And use them in a way that brings joy to our souls. I also believe we need to set an example, by our actions, for the younger people in our lives. Help them see that success is not measured by how fast we spin. But by the joy we scatter daily, in our own lives and the lives of others.

    Phyllis, you have such a marvelous platform to bring these life changing issues to our attention. I thank you for your thoughtfulness. Truly, I believe your insight will help bring about much needed change for the better in all our lives.

    1. June, my exit strategy is this: be honest. I tried making excuses for years but that only leads to more stress. When I have removed myself from obligations I simply tell the person “At this time, I am not going to be able to be a part of this _____” (fill in the blank). Usually they will ask why and I just tell them that I am having to limit my involvement at this time. OR I have overextended myself and need to limit my commitments. And when all else fails I say that it is not for me at this time.

      Beyond that, you really don’t owe anyone an explanation.

  16. I was a born pleaser so saying no is such a challenge. I am getting better at it. It is so freeing and like you I love looking at my calendar only fillled with activities and commitments I really enjoy.

  17. Thank you for reminding us that it is ok to give oneself permission to say ‘no’ to things. This has always been difficult for me to do and I am learning slowly to take steps that free me up to do things I want to do and not because I’m expected. I volunteered a lot and it felt good,but then there came a point where I felt I was being taken advantage of and when I started saying no to some requests, those in charge frowned upon it and eventually in some cases I was ostracized from the group. As I grow older and I think wiser, I can make better choices in the future.

    1. People that will ostracize you are pouting because the wanted to dump on you and you said no! BRAVO! I cant stand for people to manipulate with pouting. How immature. And guilting is another tactic. They want you to do their work and can’t stand NO.
      Find a group where you can be yourself. Believe me there are many out there just like you and me.

  18. One of the benefits of being “a very mature” age is feeling comfortable saying no and not to over extend oneself . I feel content and secure at this age and needn’t worry about being popular or involved in too many groups . A loving family and a circle of close friends fulfills my needs .
    Privacy and quiet time are important aspects of my life .
    “Pick and choose” what you really want to do … it is very liberating , especially in this age of accelerated social media .
    I enjoy turning off the noise !
    Great post to ponder .
    Thank you Phyllis !

  19. Such a great and pertinent post to those who have been involved in the “volunteer” activities and organizations and even with friends (the needy ones). I have learned to pick and choose my activities as I tend to help others more than I help myself. I actually said “no” one time and lost what I thought was a friend. I guess they weren’t a friend if they did not understand or respect a person’s time. Too many times I said “yes” as I did not want to “disappoint” however, that caused me to spend many late nights doing the things that I personally had to complete….I think as we get older, we learn that saying “no” is certainly the best thing for ourselves and our family.

    1. It’s torture doing things you don’t want to do. I agree completely. Pull away and stay in charge of your life.

  20. Thank you for this timely post. I have been practicing this for about three years. I was just overwhelmed at times. I found myself trying to please too many. I really prayed a lot about this. I even put into place an exit strategy. Now I feel less stressed and I spend time with those who mean the most. As you so elegantly stated, time spent doing something we are not really excited about means it is time taken away from those we love. We need to have these kind of discussions. I think this is a timely discussion for us as women because “no” is hard. I am still a case in progress.

  21. After years of volunteer work I decided to let most of it go and to catch up on things I want to do but didn’t have the time to do. Not long afterwards I was asked to join another Board and was made to feel that I was absolutely needed. But I said no. It made a few people unhappy, but I was happy about the decision and I’ve learned that is what counts!

  22. To say ” yes” to some things and ” no” to others is to be honest and sincere. I’m learning that it’s ok not to do everything I’m asked to do. I’m finding that by saying “yes” to the important things, I’m not spread so thin that I’m no good at anything. I’m trying to pay attention to what( and whom) I’m truly being called to. I’m learning that I can’t make everyone happy. I’ve been reading a book called Essentialism. This is helping me get more focused.

  23. One of the best advice I was given when I retired early a couple of years ago was given to me by a friend who had retired two years earlier. She said to not be afraid/feel bad about saying ‘no’. Best advice ever. I am able to graciously decline an activity that I am really not interested in at that time. I have not lost any friends or acquaintances and life is good.

  24. When I was younger, I always went to every wedding of co- workers. Some of the women I was not even on that much of a friendly with. I also went out to dinner even though I would rather stay home and cook my own meal. I have learned to say no as I got older and did not feel I had to please every person I met.

  25. I say no to people who try to coax me to watch certain movies and television shows. I would rather watch re-runs and old movies than some of the new movies and television shows. No is such a small word but at times so hard to say!. Thank You for this lovely and interesting blog.

  26. I won’t read any books that I know are not to my liking. It doesn’t matter how many people say you have to read it ; it is a best seller.

    1. I agree. I have friends that go nuts over books and shows that they want me to watch or read. But if I am not enjoying page one….its over.

  27. Guarding your time!So important, just today at lunch with friends I was feeling the pressure of a getaway weekend with a large group. The timing is bad for me as well as the cost.I am not going but feel guilty. I do enjoy them but must be true to myself. Nice to know that I am not alone

  28. Another perfectly timed and thought-provoking post. I have learned to say no to things, and have gotten really good at it over the last few years. Along with my work at FrenchGardenHouse Antiques, I really want to spend my time with the people I love most, my family, and my friends. And if I’m honest, as I get older, I also see the need to spend some time with and by myself. To read, to take a walk in the garden, or to create something beautiful with my hands.

    Learning how to say no graciously is a learned gift for most of us women, but like you, I really want to choose wisely and spend my time with the people I love and doing things that matter.

  29. Phyllis, I have been practicing saying “no” over the past couple of years. It is definitely freeing to spend time doing what I love as opposed to what people want me to do. Thank you for your wonderful insightful post!

  30. I so appreciate your statement about the multitude of delightful activities…It’s traumatic saying no but so freeing…The decrease has given me greater enjoyment of the chosen few. Thank you for your encouragement!

    1. Donna I guess we all feel that we want to please people and we don’t want to disappoint. But really we are the ones who lose when we say yes to wrong things.

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