Gracious Me: The Art of Saying No

August 4, 2011 Mindy Lockard

Who can forget Oprah’s big car giveaway?
“You get a car! And you get a car! And you get a car!” …one of the most famous moments on modern television. How fun would it be to be able to do that? Give something to someone when they need it most?

How often do we do this with our time?

“Yes to you! Yes to you! And yes to you!
It feels amazing to say yes; that is, until our time is stretched too thin, our projects are halfway completed, and our children are being raised by Nick Jr.

We’ve all experienced moments when our mouth says “yes!” to a new project while our mind says “Retreat! Retreat!” Although it is good manners to help others, is it really polite to say “yes” when we know we shouldn’t? With work, community, family and friends pulling us in so many directions, it’s easy to over-commit. Yes, it’s great to be involved, to give back and lend a hand. But sometimes when we’ve overused “yes,” we put ourselves in a place that jeopardizes our gracious best. Suddenly the spirit behind wanting to help has been replaced by the feeling of being overwhelmed.

In my personal and professional experience, I’ve found it’s quite difficult for overwhelmed and gracious to cohabitate. I’ve even tried it…for research, of course.

There was a period of time when I found myself involved in five different non-profits, a start-up company, two small children and a marriage I needed to nurture. Nothing could be put on the back burner and I found myself not doing anything well. I had to stop, reevaluate, prioritize and use a word I’d never tried: “No.” You know what? It felt really good.

Art Of Saying No

So let’s have a heart to heart with our serial “yes”-sayer.

Look at each “opportunity” and where it will put you on the scale of gracious to overwhelmed. Ask yourself… is “yes” the best answer, or should it be replaced with…say these things with me:

* “As much as I’d love to commit to this cause, now isn’t a good time, but please think of me again.”
* “Thank you for thinking of me; I’m not able to volunteer this year.”
* “I’m already working on the signs for the carnival so I shouldn’t take on another task. However, I’ve heard Jane Smith wants to get involved.”

Knowing yourself and your limits is key to living your gracious best.
Do you find yourself saying “yes” with your mouth but “no” with your mind? What phrases do you use to graciously decline an offer? Please share.

Gracious Me, gracious lifestyle column by etiquette Expert Mindy Lockard

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Mindy Lockard

Mindy Lockard is a nationally recognized etiquette consultant and the founder of Mindy Lockard Gracious Living. Mindy strives to uphold the values of gracious living in today’s modern world. Her blog, The Gracious Girl, covers a wide variety of topics and ways to incorporate living graciously into our daily lives. Mindy teaches workshops on dining, personal branding and networking to colleges and universities, government agencies and private companies.

Comments (3)

  1. Enjoy Life Oils

    I love this post so much – I think we women so easily want to be “the good girls” and say yes to everything and help everyone. I love Mindy your tip how you can recommend other people for the opportunities you get; often the things we don’t have time or energy would be great for someone else, and you are not just helping the person who is asking you, but you are also connecting someone else and helping them. And Jen – your husband is a genius; such a great idea that your “yes” and “no” balance has to be equal!

  2. I am RIGHT THERE – where you were at that point in time with the two kids, and 5 non profits, and a marriage in need of nurture. My husband and I took a 5 day trip alone last month and it was a game changer!! I am saying no left and right. It’s like a muscle; weak at first but with use I am becoming way more confident in saying no. My husband had such a good point (he is really encouraging me daily about this – it’s hard for me!). “If you say ‘yes’ to this, you have to say ‘no’ to something else. What is that something else?”

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