There is a time and place to say “YES” to everything and I wholeheartedly owned being a yes person for many, many years. Especially in the early stages of my career when hustling was my number one priority. After a decade plus of doing this, I was completely wiped out yet still stuck in my say-yes-to-everything ways. Every day, I’d look at my calendar and cringe at my over-committed schedule packed with things I didn’t realllllly want to do.
Then one day I just said fuck it. I freed myself of the obligations/pressure/guilt/FOMO/etc. because it became clear to me that saying yes to everyone else was really saying no to myself. No to rest, no to time with my family, no to a much needed workout, no to a night in, no to doing the things I wanted/needed to do. And so it began – my life as a sometimes-yes-but-mostly-no person
Once I started saying no and realized how good it felt to own my life and schedule in a way I hadn’t before, it became really addicting.
Here are my tips on saying no if this is something you struggle with:
1. Always respond to the invites – it’s rude not to and you don’t want the invites to go away.
2. When it’s an invite for something work related, respond graciously while politely declining, never offer an excuse (most excuses are usually not true anyway and everyone knows it) and always make it clear that you hope to see whoever it is at some point soon (aka on terms that work better for you!). For example, “Thank you so much for the invite, that sounds like so much fun but unfortunately I can’t make it. I hope to see you at ‘insert something you committed to where you’ll likely see them!”
3. When it’s an invite from friends, be 100% honest as to why you can’t make it – everyone appreciates the honesty.
4. When declining to a friend, suggest spontaneous plans vs. planned plans. Scheduling what should be leisure time with friends – movies, drinks, bike rides – can make these otherwise enjoyable activities feel like chores, which is often why we cancel them. Assigning a specific date and time for leisure can have the opposite intended effect, making it feel much like a chore, so instead of planning with friends, try texting/emailing day of for spontaneous plans. This will help ensure that you’re doing what you actually feel like doing.
5. Don’t become a “no” person. Once you start saying no, it’s really easy to become a bit more of a recluse but don’t! Make sure you say yes to what you really have to do (birthday parties, team happy hours, etc.) and what you really want to do. Another way to ensure you don’t become too much of a “no” person is by setting a “yes” goal – for example, two scheduled plans per week.
6. Initiate the inviting so that you get to do more of what you want to do. Want to try a new restaurant? Initiate the next work happy hour or girls dinner and plan it at the place you want to go to. This mindset gives you a lot more control on your schedule than you may anticipate.