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Thanks for Asking, But That Won’t Work for Me (3 minute read)

“No” is a hard word to say. Most of us don’t like the idea of disappointing someone else, but the fact remains that unless we want to live a life of sustained stress, we cannot say yes to everything. This is particularly hard when the opportunity in front of us is a positive one.

Let’s say though, that you’ve accepted the need to say no, and are ready to do so. How much of an explanation do you need to give? It depends on why you want to give out more information.

I am a person guilty of providing too much information. This is in part because I tend to process things out loud, and also that integrity is a very important value to me. I want people to understand why I may be making the decision I am, so I lean toward being fairly open and transparent. And yes, I tend to be a people-pleaser.

However, I’ve come to understand that discretion is wise, and that it is not a lie to say “Thanks for asking, but that won’t work for me.”

I don’t have to explain that I have another appointment at that time, or that I’m not feeling my best, or that I simply don’t want to participate in that event. “That won’t work for me” is a truthful, simple response on those times where an opportunity is truly not a fit for you or your family. Adding “Thanks for asking” acknowledges the feelings of the other person, and your appreciation for them thinking of you. (Aside … some would say “I’m sorry, but …” However, I recommend restricting the use of “I’m sorry” to times when you truly need to apologize. A thank you is more positive, and likely more honest.)

If the person you are saying “no” to is someone with whom you have a strong relationship–perhaps a long time colleague or a friend–you may feel comfortable sharing at least some of the reasons behind your “no,” not out of obligation, but perhaps out of courtesy.

Whatever you decide, understand that the amount of information you give is up to you, and in most cases (some work related situations may be an exception), a simple “No, thank you, that won’t work for me,” can be appropriate.

Now, let me give a caution.  Sometimes in time management training, we focus on a person deciding what’s best for them. It can become a selfish approach.  There are times when even if an opportunity would be inconvenient, you should say yes. Life is not all about you. Giving and serving, even sacrificially, are part of a fulfilling life. However, being able to say “That won’t work for me” without feeling obligated to explain, is a good tool for the times when you need to focus attention on caring for someone or something different (even if it means yourself sometimes.) Wise application of this practice will actually help you be in a better position to serve others with energy and presence, when the time and opportunity is right.

For more from HOPE on how to say no, click here.

For an interesting list of ways to say no (some of which I don’t care for) click here.

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