STYLE Savvy: Getting to No


Yesterday week, I wrote about learning to say no. By the end of that same day, I’d already said yes to two new things. In my defense, neither is a long-term commitment, and in one case, it was just the right thing to do.

Still, it seems as though this goal, like many others, might be harder than it sounds. Perhaps there might be some intermediate steps I need to take on the way to my big goal.

Pause. So often, those of us who say yes do so automatically. Simply stopping to think can keep us from making a snap decision that leads to a task that’s not such a snap.

Say maybe. Lengthen the pause by not committing either way until you’ve had some time to think. The bigger the task, the more reasonable “let me think about it” becomes.

Delegate or teach. This works only when you haven’t already committed to taking on the task in the first place; reneging on a task you promised to accomplish can come off as irresponsible or even obnoxious, especially if it’s not handled delicately. But, if someone else is equally capable of doing the task in question, handing it off can be a very reasonable alternative, especially if the other person is willing to take it on. If someone else is interested in learning how to do the job, taking a few minutes to teach them what to do or assist them in getting started can save you hours of time later on.

If you decide to say no, remember that a little honesty and a lot of kindness go a long way. Explaining an over-packed schedule is preferable to making excuses. Expressing a desire to help at another time or in another way (if you are willing to do so) can make today’s no more palatable.

Finally, whether the answer is yes, no or maybe, make sure it’s for the right reasons. Balance is key: balancing time, balancing tasks and balancing care for others with care for ourselves can lead to a life that’s not only fulfilling, but relaxed enough to enjoy.

Copyright 2018 Lisa Hess


About Author

Lisa Lawmaster Hess has contributed articles to local, national and online publications, and blogs at The Porch Swing Chronicles, The Susquehanna Writers and here at She is the author of two non-fiction books (Acting Assertively and Diverse Divorce) and two novels, Casting the First Stone and Chasing a Second Chance. A retired elementary school counselor, Lisa is a lecturer in psychology at York College and enjoys singing with the contemporary choir at her church.


  1. Deanna, that’s part of what’s behind my “no” campaign. I’m so busy saying yes to the wrong things that I don’t have time to do the right things. Pausing and thinking about the reality of “yes” saves me a lot of headaches — when I remember to do it!

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