Saying no can be a difficult thing for many of us to do. We want to do what we can to help others, sometimes at the expense of our own families or personal well-being. In fact, some of us are so entrenched in helping others that we don’t actually know how to say no.
Be upfront. Ignoring the request or being vague about your intentions don’t help anybody. If you can’t help, say so. Clearly. That way the person still has time to find someone else.
Be gracious. People asking you for help is a sign that they value your skills and what you contribute. It’s not inappropriate to thank them for thinking of you, even if you’re unable to help.
Explain why. If you can’t help at the book fair because your schedule is crazy that week, say so. We all have obligations and lives of our own. A reasonable person will understand that you can’t be everywhere.
But don’t over-explain. A long-winded explanation isn’t necessary. Your friend doesn’t need to know your entire daily to-do list or how your great Aunt Betsy’s cough developed into pneumonia so you’re taking care of her pain in the butt dog. In fact, over-explaining can sound fake or made up.
Offer to help in a different way. You can’t go to the bake sale, but maybe you can make something. You can’t co-sign on your nieces loan, but maybe you can write a letter of recommendation.
Let go of guilt. This can be the toughest thing, but it’s the most important. Your time is valuable. To you. To your family. To your employer. And it’s limited. You have the right to prioritize how you spend your time, as does everyone else.
The good news is that saying no gets easier with practice. Not only do you get better at it, you begin to see that the world doesn’t fall apart if you’re not the class mom every year. Remember the saying is, “It takes a village,” not, “It takes 1 super-dedicated, over-tired, stressed out mom.”