Thursday, September 1, 2011

How to Say "No" to Others, So You Can Say "Yes" to God

Editor’s note: Due to circumstances beyond our control, we are not able to publish “Beauty from Ashes.” We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your understanding. In its place, we are featuring an article from Glynnis Whitwer’s newest book, “I Used to Be So Organized.” We hope you enjoy it.

By Glynnis Whitwer

September is a month when many of us gear up for fall activities. Whether it’s church, community groups or school, many of us will face with new requests for our time. And so much of it will sound exciting … and fun … and easy … and it won’t take much time at all (at least that’s what we are promised).

And then by October, what seemed so effortless, will be a burden. We’ll find ourselves wondering how we got so overcommitted, and start looking for a way out. Stress will set in, there will be an underlying anxiety at times that you can’t explain. Your family will suffer due to your frustration. How do I know all this? First-hand experience.

I’m a highly motivated woman, and tend to be overly confident in my ability to manage many projects at once. But I’ve discovered that if I say yes to something new, I’m saying no to something else. That tends to be time with those that matter most to me.

In my latest book, I Used to Be So Organized, I share a lot of my story. But today, I’d like to share some tips from my book on how to say “no.” Hopefully they will help equip you for a more balanced life in the coming months.

But I don’t want to hurt her feelings!

Most of us never want to hurt another’s feelings. So we are afraid to say “no” and this can lead to over-commitment. Learning how to say “no” with grace will give you a freedom to make choices about your time, and attend to your priorities.
The simple truth is always the best approach when saying no. A five-minute exposition about your busy life, your demanding mother or your clinging children isn’t the most effective approach. That may be the truth, but you’ve given too much information, and your listener tuned out four minutes ago.

Ask for time to decide

When someone asks for your help, ask for time to pray about it. If you don’t feel comfortable saying “pray,” then ask for time to “think.” Then take it to God. By establishing this pattern, you’ve built in a response time, and eliminated a response based on emotion such as guilt or sympathy.
God may surprise you with His answer. It may be yes. It may be no. Either way, you are learning to seek God’s approval rather than man’s and that is the first step to a healthy schedule. Here’s how to say it:

I’d like to pray/think about that. When do you need an answer?

I need to check my schedule. I’ll get back to you in a few days.

Ask for more information

Get a complete picture of the task. Ask how much time it will take and what’s involved. You might also ask to speak with someone who has done it before. It’s called due diligence, and in doing it, you may discover a conflict that makes it easy to say no.

I’d like to know more. Can you write up a description of what’s involved?

That sounds interesting, but I’d like to get an accurate picture of what would be required of me before I say decide.

Scripts for saying “no”

If you don’t believe this request fits into your life at this time, then decline with a simple answer that doesn’t invite questions. Normally I express my appreciation and honor for being asked, and then offer a response like:

God is calling me to simplify my schedule. As much as I would love to help, I need to say no.

I’m trying to be a better steward of my time. As important as this request is, I hope you understand, but I need to decline.

I’m trying to focus on my main priorities, and need to say no at this time.

These are confident responses that show you’ve thought this out. Most people respect these types of answers, and respect you for giving them. Make sure you don’t open the door for a “yes” later on. It only postpones the inevitable, and increases your stress. But most importantly, learning to say “no” to others, creates opportunities for you to say “yes” to God.

Glynnis Whitwer is on staff with Proverbs 31 Ministries as the Senior Editor of the P31 Woman magazine. She is one of the writers of Encouragement for Today, the Proverbs 31 e-mail devotions, with over 500,000 daily readers. Her newest book, I Used to be So Organized, has just been released. Glynnis, her husband Tod, and their five children live in Glendale, Arizona. Visit or to learn more.

To purchased Glynnis's new book, I Used to Be So Organized, just click here.