One of the greatest things about women is that they rarely refuse to help someone else in need. The bad thing about women? They rarely refuse anything. If you’re a yes girl, you’re likely saying yes before you’re checking your calendar or thinking about whether you want to do it. Make an extra 56 cupcakes for the school bake sale? Sure. Babysit your neighbor’s baby for an afternoon? Of course. Sometimes it seems like all you are saying is yes when really what you should be screaming from the hilltops is NO! That’s right, the 2-year-old has it all over you. That toddler knows the power of no while you’re still sitting there saying yes to everything and not having enough time to do the things you really need and want to do.
Here are Five Tips for Getting in Touch with Your Inner Toddler:
1. Have some scripts at the ready. You know how you always think of the best way to say no after you’ve already said yes? Put that power to use and come up with a bevy of ways to say no. Whether it’s “my heart says yes but my calendar says no,” or it’s simply an “I’ll get back to you,” have it ready so the next time someone asks you to do something, you are armed with an answer. Can’t think of anything good? There is now an iPhone app that can help you say no. It’s called INo, and for $0.99 gives you thousands of nice and not-so-nice ways to say no. You can find it in the app store on Apple.
2. Make Some Rules. There are just some things in life that can’t be changed. If you work in an office, you’re going to get hit up to support your cube mate’s kid’s softball team. If you have kids, you’re going to get emails from the school asking for parent volunteers for absolutely everything. So make some rules and stick to them. Decide that you’re only doing one volunteer event per kid per year. Or pick one charity and decide that all others are off limits for the year. It makes it easier to say no to something if you have put a little thought into your plan.
3. Beg for Time. Nobody is going to give you a gold star for responding to the PTA president’s email first, so buy some time, especially if you are a chronic over-extender. Don’t respond right away and give yourself some time to think about it. If you feel you need to respond right away, ask the person when they need a response. That buys you some time while you’re determining if it’s a yes or a no.
4. Question Yourself. It’s time to do a little soul searching. Why are you saying yes? Is it because you really want to do it or because you feel bad saying no? Does saying no make you worry that you won’t be liked? Is this person asking you because she knows inherently that she can take advantage of you? Is she someone you would ask for a favor? What am I giving up if I say yes? Asking yourself some questions might give you some answers you don’t want to hear, but it will make it clear to you.
5. Compromise. Try saying no by suggesting a compromise. If your friend desperately needs your babysitting help while she gets a hair cut, tell her the days you are free and have her schedule her appointment during those times. Suggesting an alternative isn’t saying no, but it can be taking control where you most need it. Your single friend wants to meet for drinks during your favorite spin class? Tell her you’ll meet her after class or on a different day. That way you’re saying yes to yourself and your friend.
We are the co-founders of Buttoned Up, inc (@getbuttonedup)., a company dedicated to helping stretched and stressed women get themselves organized and co-authors of Pretty Neat: The Buttoned Up Way to Get Organized and Let Go of Perfection and Everything (almost) In Its Place. We welcome your thoughts! Please send ideas and questions to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us at www.getbuttonedup.com