Child Care Professional

Three Steps to a Better “No”

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Saying no to things you don’t have the time or energy for, can’t help with, or simply just don’t want to do for whatever reason is a simple concept that’s hard to execute. As caregivers, we often say yes because we don’t know how to say no in a professional, respectful way. The saying “No is a complete sentence” is true; however, for most of us, it doesn’t feel like enough. Here are three steps to a better no.

1. Acknowledge the Other Person’s Situation
When someone asks you for something, there’s a reason behind it. Sometimes it’s valid and understandable, and other times it’s not. Either way, by acknowledging the other person’s experience around the ask, we let them know we hear them and recognize what they’re going through. This doesn’t mean it’s our job to fill their need; it’s just a show of understanding and empathy. Saying no with an acknowledgment might sound like, “Emily, I know your boss asked you to work late, and he’s not great at hearing no. However, I’m not able to stay late tonight.” Or “Sean, I know finances have been tight since you were laid off last month. I wish I were in a position to be able to help. However, I don’t have the wiggle room to offer you a discounted rate.” Each example says no to helping with a problem the other person is facing; however, the acknowledgment also shows there’s a caring person behind the no. 

2. Be Strong in Your No
When you do deny a request, say it caringly and confidently. Remember, you have the right to say no. You help when you can, but when it’s a no, that’s okay.   

3. Explain (if you want) but Don’t Justify or Apologize
Your reasons for saying no don’t have to pass anyone else’s “Is this a good enough reason?” test. Explaining your reasons can help the asker understand the no better, however, you can stop there. Skip over the justification; it’s just asking for permission (that you don’t need) to say no. Let go of the apology; no need to say you’re sorry for setting and holding healthy boundaries. 

Saying no to someone’s request, especially when there’s a real need behind it, is uncomfortable and hard. However, it’s necessary at times to maintain our own physical and mental health.