Thursday, May 28, 2009

please say no

I remember one of my nursing instructors teaching us how to say 'no'. It comes up a lot in nursing. "Can you please work one more shift? I know you haven't been off in two weeks, but we really need you and you'll get double time."

So, this is what my instructor told us. "Just say 'no'. Don't give an excuse, don't explain, just say 'no'." I didn't know how to say 'no'. It took me years to really learn it. I was/am a people-pleaser and people aren't pleased when you don't do what they want you to, right?

Turns out that unless they are trying to staff a hospital, they don't really mind so much. I have found that people respect people who know their limits. Oh, there are a few who can't take it, but that's their problem, really, not mine. Some people have to learn how to hear 'no'.

But as for saying it? It's not really that hard once you start practicing. Because don't you hate that feeling of having so many things to do that you don't really want to do? Don't you get tired of the resentment you feel toward the people who asked. The truth is, all they did was ask. The resentment is really at yourself for getting sucked in again, right?

So, next time the Sunday School director says, "We really need someone to teach kindergarten next week." And you get a headache just thinking about it, say "No. Thanks for thinking of me. I hope you find someone else."
Next time your neighbor asks you to babysit and you hate babysitting, say, "No."
In fact, I've been pretty blunt and said, "I really don't like babysitting." That probably didn't go over very well. I'm sure they thought everyone should adore spending time with their children.

Just saying 'no', seems so rude. But here's the thing, if you give an excuse, they will counter it. Don't explain.

What about service? What about putting others before ourselves and all that?
If God asks you to teach that class, go for it. If you feel led to babysit, do it.
But if you will be full of anger and resentment, if you will be so overbooked that you don't have time to live your own life, say 'no'.

I've said 'no' to things and had people not respond that well. But they got over it. And I got over it immediately. Having people not be pleased with me turns out to be preferable to all of the yuck I feel when I say 'yes' to something I don't want to do. The relief that comes with 'no' is almost immediate.

Try it.


  1. Great thoughts here.

    And I had no idea you are a nurse!! What area do/did you work in!

    It's funny how they teach us to do that, and yet nursing supervisors are the absolute worst about guilt trips when they want you to do something. And on the rare occasion I called in sick? What happened to their bedside manner? ("Are you sure you can't make it in? We'll be way understaffed if you aren't here.")

    Thanks for the memories!

  2. A-hem ... Did you write this just for ME?

    Good advice, Kay. Thanks.

  3. I'm such a people-pleaser, it's hard for me to say "no" as well. Thanks for posting the encouraging words!

  4. You get better at saying no as you get older. Been there, done that. I am involved in a pretty intensive nursing home ministry (as you know) and one day the nursery lady asked me to fill in for someone. I answered her by asking her which nursing home she wanted to fill in at.... She looked a little shocked, then nodded and smiled.

  5. There used is a classic book called, When I say No, I Feel Guilty, by Manuel J. Smith. Good book on learning to say no.

    Thanks for sharing this, Kay.

  6. The worst guilt is over Sunday School teaching. Since I am a teacher, it's assumed that I want to teach SS (which I have for many years). Because there is such a need for Sunday School volunteers in our church (and just about any church, I'm sure), one feels very guilty for saying no... I'm still pondering how to break the news to our SS director.

  7. awwww! I wanted to say "no" but I just got beat out of it and now I feel angry and resentful!

  8. Browsing around blogging world, found your post. Definitely something I needed to hear. Great page, I love it! :)


I love to hear your thoughts!