I’m sorry, but I decline…

The art of refusal is something I’m only just learning to master, Happies. For years I was an over-committer, completely unable to say no to anything or anyone due to a ridiculous need to please people and a lingering sense of fear of pissing people off.

It’s ridiculous when you think about it, but a common mistake made by us ‘people pleasers’ of the world and one I totally understand. Being able to say no is a craft, and if there was a gene in charge of granting people the ability to simply refuse, I missed out on it completely. Utterly. Superbly.

In the past, I said yes to everything. Cleaning the car? Of course. Washing the dog? Sign me up. I once said yes to a joining a friend in a lecture. For a subject I wasn’t even studying. I know, I’m nuts!

But over time, due to a severe lack of ‘me’ time and that sweet little gem in life known as maturity, I started toying with this foreign concept of saying ‘I’m sorry, but I decline’.

My main concern came with disappointing the asker, I was worried that by me saying NO, they’d take it personally and I’d upset them, or worse yet, my refusal would send them into a flurry of anger and the friendship would be over. Complicating things much?

But over time, the more I learned to diplomatically say no, the more I realised that people were totally accepting of my decision, and responded by swiftly moving onto some other poor sucker in the hope of them not being so comfortable with that no word. Did the friendship end? No way. Did I upset anyone? Absolutely not. Was I a million times happier and enjoying my newfound free time? Too right, buster.

I recently read an article by Christine Hohlbaum, the author of The Power of Slow: 101 Ways to Save Time in Our 24/7 World, about how powerful saying no actually is. It’s all in the delivery, Hohlbaum explains, and quite frankly, I couldn’t agree more.

Here are her tips for letting people down gently…

1. Acknowledge. If someone asks you to do something, it is because they have faith you can do it or they like you enough to want to spend their time with you. If spearheading a new project or attending that party makes your heart sink instead of sing, acknowledge the person’s thoughtfulness for having considered you.

2. Express gratitude and interest. Thank the person for their invitation, then show interest in their efforts.

3. Decline. Once you have acknowledged the person’s request and expressed your gratitude for their consideration, politely decline with a few simple words. If “no” itself is too hard, you can say you have an overlapping commitment.

In other words, Happies, do whatever it takes to get out of said commitment, even if it means lying. Hilarious! No, no, in all seriousness I think the delivery of the N.O. does impact the outcome, and as long as you treat the asker with respect and reply diplomatically, you really can’t go wrong.

Plus, let’s face it, there are plenty of other people that will happily accept, so you may as well step aside and let them enjoy the experience, while saying yes to yourself at the same time. Who could ever say no to that?

Tell me Happies…

Do you suffer from YES syndrome, too?

How do you combat it?



  1. theloveofpink · March 29, 2011

    I used to be a hardcore YES person but last year I pledged to make a shift. It’s amazing how gently (or not so gently) saying no can shift your perspective and encourage you to value your time. Best thing I ever did… ! X

  2. akisa · March 29, 2011

    Well said Yas!!

  3. Lilpil · March 29, 2011

    Great advice there. I’m so going to practice this art today to get out of a dinner this week.

  4. Elise @ The Nail File · March 29, 2011

    I was a hardcore yes-man until recently and it was affecting my health. I was going to launches and parties and stuff I didn’t want to be at instead of coming home to eat a healthy meal or go to pilates, and in the end I just melted. I have taken many of Christine’s lessons on board and always gratefully acknowledge an invitation, but I am saying more no’s than yes’s these days and I feel better for it. Great post Yaz!

  5. notquitecarrie · March 29, 2011

    I always feel guilty when I have to say no. It’s absurd, you can’t always please everyone. But i’ve learned that sometimes, just sometimes i have to put myself first!

  6. CC · March 29, 2011

    I definitely suffered from ‘Yes’ syndrome, but this year – after all the obligatory 21st were over – I decided enough is enough. Some people are taking it hard, but if they don’t understand, I wonder if they are people I want to catch up with anyway.
    Learning to say ‘no’ is liberating, for your health and for your relationships.

    Great post, Yaz! Xx

  7. Lien Davies · March 29, 2011

    Love the post babe! thank goodness I have mastered the art of saying NO a few years ago. I’m happier and more relaxed because I’m no longer wearing myself out trying to please everyone. See you on Thursday for lunch You Gorgeous Woman!!

  8. Christine Louise Hohlbaum · March 30, 2011

    Your post made my heart sing. Wonderful news that you have discovered the most powerful world in the English language for getting you back on track to a life you deserve: NO! Live in the belief that it is a complete sentence. No with kindness may still be hard for some to hear, but if you say it with sincerity, they will want to help you instead!

    Thank you for the kind post about The Power of Slow and that lovely word, ‘no’! 🙂

  9. Yaz Turker · March 30, 2011

    Holy moly, thank YOU so much Christine. I’m a little bit star struck and so excited that you found this post. Thank you for your amazing insight, keep up the good work. Yx

  10. Sara · March 31, 2011

    Great post! I love the Power of Slow by Christine and I just have to add one of my other favorite books, The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal, by Renee Trudeau. She talks about Managing Your Energy/Saying No. I have noticed it’s getting easier for me to say “no” (although I still feel guilty sometimes)…whether it be a lunch date, a volunteer activity, or a project. It’s a very empowering feeling to know that I am, indeed, in control of my life and have the ability to say no to what drains me and yes to what energizes me!

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