One of the (not-so) secrets to success as a working mum is learning to say ‘no’. We can have it all, but we can’t do it all. In fact, the only way we can have it all is by not doing it all. Inevitably, this means that we will have to say ‘no’ now and then – taking on too many commitments or spreading ourselves too thinly is only going to set us up for failure.
Saying ‘no’ is an art that many people struggle with – they don’t want to let others down, miss out on opportunities or jeapordise a relationship – but it is a valuable skill to master and it doesn’t have to be difficult.
The cost of saying ‘yes’
The starting point for mastering the artful ‘no’ is understanding the cost of saying ‘yes’. We often become so concerned with pleasing others that we say ‘yes’ without hesitation and without really considering the implications of that ‘yes’. Remember this: for everything that you say ‘yes’ to, you are saying ‘no’ to something else.
Going to work or staying home and spending time with the kids; taking a well-paying job with a commute or keeping the position around the corner from home; writing this blog post or going to sleep; eating my second chocolate Easter egg or eating my second chocolate Easter egg (there’s no alternative here, the egg is going to be eaten) – you get the idea.
How not to become a yes-(wo)man
The reasons why we becoming ‘yes-(wo)men’ tend to fall into two broad categories: not wanting to let people down and not wanting to miss out. How do we deal with these fears? The short answer: by remembering that you are living YOUR life, not someone elses.
Know your values, goals and priorities
The absolute key to mastering the ‘no’, is knowing your values, goals and priorities. If saying ‘yes’ to one thing means saying ‘no’ to something else, you need to know which opportunity is more valuable to you.
If you’re clear about your priorities, any guilt you may have about saying ‘no’ falls away. At least, that’s the aim! Honestly though, if the choices you make are the ones that are right for you and your family, what is there to feel guilty about? We can’t be everything to everyone, nor can we make everyone happy.
My priority is spending one-on-one time with my daughter on the days I am not at work, so I won’t say ‘yes’ to catching up with every friend and family member who asks me. Yes, those relationships are important to me, but Lilly is my priority.
Creating a life you love
Feeling like we’re missing out sometimes is inevitable, but FOMO is not a good enough reason to say ‘yes’ to something. Instead of focusing on the things you can’t do, focus on the opportunities in your life and practice gratitude for the things you do have. Create and live a life you love. Fill your life with so much love, happiness, fun, adventure, thrill or challenge that you want to choose your everyday life. I know ‘gratitude’ is the buzz word right now and this may all sound a bit cliche, but it really is true!
Like most parents, I’ve missed many nights out with my friends. As I write this post on a Saturday night, my girlfriends are out for dinner and drinks at a new bar (actually, I have no idea if it is new. I’ve never heard of it before, but, let’s be honest, I’m not exactly up to date with these things!). While I’m sure I would have enjoyed myself had I been there, I genuinely don’t feel like I’ve missed out. I like to be at home to settle my daughter to sleep and to comfort her when she wakes in the night. Would I have it any other way? Nope.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that the friendships don’t matter; they absolutely do, but there are other ways to nurture my friendships that fit with my priorities. I can see my friends during the day when Lilly is happy to be apart from me or I can take her with me to see them. What I value is the friendship, not the time and place of the get-together.
The art of saying no
Saying ‘no’ can be a complex art. While it is important to value your own time and priorities, your relationships with others matter too and it is important that you don’t jeapordise them. Here are my thoughts on how to say no gracefully:
- Cut to the chase – there’s no point putting off your answer if you know it is going to be a ‘no’. The sooner you say ‘no’, the more opportunity the other person has to make alternative arrangements.
- Explain why – you don’t have to justify every decision you make to someone else, but if you’re struggling with a ‘no’ it may help to explain why you made that choice. If you value a relationship, you don’t want people to think you are palming them off with a ‘no’ because you don’t care.
- Offer an alternative – if the relationship or opportunity is important to you, it is worth suggesting an alternative. It could be as simple as a new date and time for a meeting, offering help/assistance rather than taking on a complete task, recommending someone else to help or even a simple ‘let me know how you get on’.
So, there we have it. How to say no! Do you struggle to say ‘no’? What advice or tips would you add to this list?