Deciding whether to say “yes” or “no” to a request in a flash can be a tough scenario to navigate. Saying “yes” to giving your time and energy to helping people isn’t inherently wrong; it can bring joy to both you and the person on the receiving end. The problem arises when we stop saying “yes” out of a genuine desire to serve and love, and start saying it either because we’re afraid of disappointing others, or simply because we no longer have the ability to say “no” when we know we should.
Here’s an example:
Rob is great guy who loves to help. His friends and family know this about him.
Over the course of one weekend, he gets asked to coach his nephew’s baseball game on Friday night, help a friend move on Saturday, volunteer at church on Sunday morning and drive his grandfather to the doctor Sunday evening.
Of course, Rob knows that committing to all of these activities is going to put him in a time crunch and will leave him low on energy by Sunday evening, unprepared and unrested for the week ahead. But how could he say “no” to some and “yes” to others? How does he decide which is most important between his nephew, a friend, his church or his grandfather? Rejecting some and choosing the others just feels wrong.
So he commits himself to every activity, fearing that some would feel slighted if he declined, and doesn’t spend any time during the weekend checking in with or taking care of himself. Rob believes himself to be helping all of these people, but by Saturday, he’s tired from a long Friday of coaching in the sun and agitated with all of the boxes his friend needs help moving. On Sunday, he’s waking up late and rushing to church, completely missing out on the joy and peace he could be encountering. And Grandpa makes it to his doctor’s appointment that evening, but Rob is too busy resenting his grandfather for taking up his Sunday evening—thinking about how early he’ll have to get up for work tomorrow morning—that he doesn’t take the opportunity to appreciate the quality time with Grandpa.
Little does Rob know, he’d be better for those he loves if he had healthy boundaries set up to protect his time and energy.
We all know what this feels like. If we knew how to better navigate the quick moment of decision-making, we could have avoided misspending our time, money or resources. Or, if it’s something worth giving to, we could have had a better attitude about it. For some of us, saying “yes” is almost a reflex: when someone asks something of us, we feel an immediate sense of obligation on our shoulders. So what can you do to work past the feeling of obligation, overcommitment and potential resentment?
Here’s a simple tool: “Let me think about that and get back to you.”
Try as we might, we can’t always have our planner or our to-do list flawlessly uploaded into our brains; things slip through the cracks. We forget about appointments, plans, projects and assignments all the time and double-book ourselves because we love to be productive and we don’t like the feeling or the response that comes from saying “no.” But the truth is, every time we say “yes” to something, we’re saying “no” to something else. Saying “yes” to every plan and opportunity that comes your way means that you are, to some extent, saying “no” to yourself, whether that be taking care of your mental, spiritual, emotional or physical health. Valuable moments can pass by while we are juggling everything we’ve overloaded ourselves with.
Not to mention that saying “yes” too quickly can distract us from our deeper desires and long-term goals.
So, the next time you feel yourself starting to accept because you’re afraid to decline, take a deep breath and say, “Let me think about that and get back to you.”
Keep your options open and set healthy boundaries and give yourself time to properly assess what the best decision is. Respect your time and your wellbeing, as well as that of those around you by giving your best self to what you commit to, being completely present instead of rushing onto the next task in the line-up. People may not love the sound of “no” when they first hear it, but your honesty sets a precedent for others to learn how to do the same, a mutual respect worth working towards.