Just Say “That Doesn’t Work for Me”

The truth is…so often we say yes when we mean NO. Every minute of every day, in office buildings, homes, schools and virtually, women are saying yes when they really WANT/NEED to say No. Even yours truly.

  • Would you be willing to bake 27 cupcakes for Emily’s homeroom on Friday?
  • You are so great at writing; will you review/edit my book?
  • Would you mind listening to me vent for just a few minutes? …I really need to get this off my chest. Of course, what’s going on?

Does any of this sound familiar?  These are just a couple of examples of times I’ve said yes and then immediately regretted it. Why? Because when I said yes when I really meant no, a couple of things happened:

  • My own priorities were not being met because I was busy with some else’s.
  • I felt bogged down with commitments that weren’t really important to me and they therefore sapped my energy rather than adding vitality.
  • I started resenting the people who asked me for favors. (And that wasn’t fair, since it was my fault, not theirs!)

But a while back I discovered a secret—a short phrase that allowed me to give an honest and forthright NO and I now consistently work on this with the women I coach.

This 5-word sentence is THE TOOL that allows me to kindly, carefully respond to a request rather than to react with an immediate yes. The sentence is: “That doesn’t work for me”. Period. The beauty of this one sentence is multilayered:

-I don’t have to explain it further. Rather than saying, “well, my cousin’s friend’s sister’s husband is going to be in town and I think I have to blah blah blah”, it doesn’t call for more words.

-It gives no judgment to the person who asked for the favor. Before, if I felt overwhelmed, I’d just get ticked at the straw-person who asked for something when I was at my whit’s end; and I would judge him or her for being rude/self-absorbed, arrogant, etc. and then sour the relationship.

-It works even in hindsight. Most importantly, even if you’ve reacted with a yes and then thought better of it, it still works. Going back to the person and saying, “When you asked if I could edit your book, I regret that I reacted with an immediate yes. You see, I really want to support you so I said yes in the moment, but it’s just not going to work for me after all.” Ahhhh. Relief.

This doesn’t mean I’ve stopped saying yes to things. On the contrary, it allows me to say yes to more of what I love. More of what feeds my soul and my bank account. I wish the whole world knew how to say no. It would save so much time and hard feelings.

For example, right now I am involved in a collaborative effort that needs promotional support from others. Therefore, my partners and I are contacting a number of people we think might be a great fit to help us promote. Some have given us a yes, others a thoughtful no. But there are so many who just don’t respond. Really? These are people with whom we have relationships and I’m betting they would rather respond with integrity rather than just hoping we’ll go away. I’m also betting they just don’t know how to say, “You know, that just doesn’t work for me right now”. How much time/effort/energy they would save both of us. We’d stop contacting them and they’d stop having to feel awkward, guilty, annoyed, overwhelmed every time we attempt to contact them to get an answer.

Ignoring a request so often seems to be the only tool people have in their arsenal when it comes to saying no. I beg you, go out and try “that doesn’t work for me” instead.


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