We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Self-care is crucial, especially for moms. Without it, you’re setting yourself up for a breakdown.
What do self-care and saying no have to do with each other? Everything! Picture this:
Your boss assigns you tasks with tight deadlines, then you coworker asks you to cover for her the next day, your friend asks you to drive her to the airport at midnight, and your neighbor asks you to babysit her kids. You say yes to all these things. Plus you have your usual daily obligations. You’re “Super Mom,” so chances are you’ll manage to get everything done, BUT the tasks your boss assigned you are probably going to be sub-par because you didn’t get any sleep since you had your kids plus the neighbor’s kids and you had to drive your friend to the airport at midnight, probably got home after 1am, and had to wake up at 5am, then you had cover for your coworker when you got to work… Sound familiar?
Extended periods of this overextension of your amazing self will not only leave you mentally and physically drained, but your work and relationships will suffer as a result. Isn’t it better to do less and enjoy better quality work and relationships? Thankfully you can avoid all the stress with just one word: “no.” Here’s how to do it right.
How to Say “No” Tactfully and Not Feel Bad About it
We’ve all been there. You want to say no but you also don’t want to be mean, so you say yes to everything (even kids’ play dates you don’t have the energy for!). Here are a few suggestions for how to say no without sounding rude.
1. Remember Who You’re Talking To
The way you say no to your boss will definitely be different from how you say no to your peers. Consider your situation to help determine the approach you’ll take. You might be blunt with close family and friends—“I don’t want to go”—and know they can take it, but you’ll probably have to be more considerate with everyone else: “I would love to take this on, but my plate is really full right now. I hope you understand.”
2. Be Firm but Courteous
When declining a request for your help, don’t raise the tone of your voice at the end to imply a question—“no?” Otherwise, you’re leaving room for someone to convince you to say yes. And if you’re just plain bad at saying no, you’re going to end up giving in. Even if you feel guilty, don’t show it. “Fake it ‘til you make it” if need be—just stay strong!
Say you’re asked to bake a cake for your kid’s school fundraiser, but you know you won’t have time. Simply say, “I appreciate you thinking of me. I’m sorry I won’t be able to help this time, but I’ll let you know which of the upcoming events I’ll be able to volunteer for.” This gives you the upper hand without appearing mean, and it leaves the ball in your court. Be careful, though—don’t commit to a future activity if you know you won’t be able to do it.
3. The Less You Say, The Better
Don’t feel obligated to accompany your “no” with an excuse. If you feel you must give an explanation, keep it short, don’t give details, and stick as close to the truth as possible. Lies will only catch up with you later. If you’re invited to a party you have no interest in attending, a simple, “Thanks for the invite but I won’t be able to make it,” will do. No need to hurt the host/ess’s feelings.
4. Ask Them a Question
Asking a question to clarify how busy you are or help free you up for this new task might serve you well in certain situations—especially when it comes to work relationships. For example, if your supervisor asks you to take on more tasks than you can handle, you could say, “I’m happy to do A, B, and C, but I would need two weeks instead of one in order to do the job well. How would you like me to prioritize these tasks?”
And just like that, you’ll likely get the two weeks you need—or they just might reassign one of the tasks to someone else.
Saying “No”: It’s Okay to Be Selfish
As moms, we tend to put everyone else’s needs before our own. But if you continue this pattern, your productivity in all areas of life will suffer. Since most of us are already operating on minimal hours of sleep (unless your kids are champion sleepers!), it’s important not to stretch oneself too thin.
It might be hard at first—old habits die hard after all—but you’ll get used to saying no. It might actually feel liberating. Eventually those around you will get the point. Say yes to YOU!
“Say no to everything, so you can say yes to the one thing.” – Richie Norton