It is no secret many Americans have a hard time saying no, regardless of the situation. Sometimes we are trying to avoid the perception being impolite; other times, we over-commit out of the goodness of our hearts. Either way, saying yes too often can overfill your schedule, put a strain on important relationships, and leave you little to no time to focus on yourself.  Joe Calloway, the author of “Keep it Simple”, states “as we simplify, we increase the likelihood of success.” Saying “no” simplifies our schedules and allows us to accomplish the projects, tasks, or events that truly matter!  The Plumlee & Associates Team is only suggesting that saying yes to the most important things in your life requires you to add “no” to your vocabulary more often!

#1 – Practice Saying “No”

This may seem silly, but practice makes perfect! Grab a coworker and spend five minutes each day have one person ask questions and the other person turn them down, then switch! This practice will allow you to get comfortable with saying “no” and when the time comes for you to turn something down you’ll be prepared!  Do this for 2 weeks and a new habit will be formed!

#2 – Give Yourself Permission

Slowly repeat this phrase: you do not need anyone else’s permission to say no. Your top priorities are most important; others will have to wait!  It is okay to make time for yourself, put restraints on your budget so you can save money, or save yourself from an event you know would make you miserable. Self-care is highly important and without it, there is a slippery slope of negativity just waiting to happen. Keep yourself in mind and remember that it’s okay to say “no” – you will not miss out on the biggest opportunity of your life. (And if by some off-chance you do: there is another, larger opportunity coming. (Trust us!)

#3 – Keep It Simple

It may be tempting to come up with a long-winded explanation when you are faced with telling someone “no” – but the simplest answers are typically the best. Explaining yourself too much could also open the door for the person asking to invalidate your excuse. If you say “I can’t, I have no one to watch my kids” and then they invite your kids, how would you respond? Just try telling them “no”, and move on with the situation.

#4 – Say the Actual Word – “No”

“I’m not sure,” “I don’t think so,” and “Maybe” are ambiguous answers that you should cut out of your vocabulary. Unless you really are not sure – in which case “I need to double-check my calendar” is typically the best response – just say the actual word, “no.” In some cases, it is easier to say “I don’t” rather than “I can’t.” People will accept your response as a hard-and-fast rule: “I don’t lend money to friends” is easier to accept than “I can’t right now.”

#5 – Tell the Truth

People respect honest answers when it comes to declining an offer or invitation. If you would rather have a relaxing weekend off than attend a fancy dinner event with a friend, be honest! If your wallet is not necessarily overflowing with cash, then do not feel compelled to contribute to your neighbor’s son’s school fundraiser.  It is clearly OK to let them know it’s not in the budget. The more authentic you are in declining an “ask” or invitation, the more people will understand.

#6 – Offer an Alternative

This is a last resort, but if you are stuck talking to someone who absolutely refuses your “no” response, try offering them an alternative option. For example, if your coworker wants to bring her new boyfriend and his three kids to your wedding, say no and then offer to meet them another time.

Saying no is something we all must learn to do, and once we get better at it this skill it will allow each of us to balance better schedules and carve more time out for self care.

Are you good at saying no? Let us know in the comments below.

Don’t forget to check out our other posts such as How to Network Anywhere this Summer on the Plumlee & Associates blog!

– Martin Plumlee is the Owner and Senior Executive Recruiter for Plumlee & Associates (www.plumleeassociates.com), based in Franklin, Tennessee.  For over 18 years, he has been a successful Sales Executive, Talent Strategist and Leadership Consultant.  Outside of business, he loves his life and duties as a husband, father and Citizen-Soldier; Martin currently serves in the Army Reserves in Des Moines, IA.  He has humbly served on both Active Duty and in the Reserves for over 15 years.  He is a graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point (1994) and earned an MBA in International Business from Tennessee Technological University (2006).  Please connect with him on LinkedIn and follow the firm on Twitter (@PlumleeAssoc) and Facebook (PlumleeAssociatesNashville)