Empower yourself to say 'no' respectfully

Empower yourself to say 'no' respectfully

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — I heard Christmas music in a department store today and realized the holiday season is already upon us — ready or not.

The holidays can bring increased family time and wonderful memories, but they can also increase your stress level as your calendar fills up with concerts and parties and holiday obligations.

Why say no

According to the Mayo Clinic, “stress relief can be as straightforward as just saying no … saying yes isn't healthy. When you're overcommitted and under too much stress, you're more likely to feel run-down and possibly get sick.”

Saying "no" does not make you selfish. It allows you time for what matters most and even offers a chance for other people to step in and help out in your place.

We’ve talked before about how to handle being an overscheduled parent. At MOMentity, we feel it is very important to define and protect our roles. This is no different during the busy holiday season. If anything, we must be more vigilant and consciously say “no” to the events we just don’t have time for.

Ditch the guilt you feel when you choose your own priorities over someone else’s. Saying “no” does not make you selfish. It allows you time for what matters most and even offers a chance for other people to step in and help out in your place.

Learn to say no

Learning to say “no” is critical to our success as a parent. Yet so many of us struggle with the word “no.” Those who do are often people pleasers (myself included). We want to do everything for everyone all the time. And if we don’t, we feel so guilty. But pleasing everyone all the time is just not possible.

What is possible is to empower yourself with a strategy to say “no” respectfully. There is a simple pattern you can follow to make saying “no” much easier.


William Ury, author of “The Power of a Positive No: How to Say No and Still Get to Yes,” suggests a winning approach is to sandwich your “no” between two “yeses.” This enables you to be assertive with your answer and still preserve the relationship you have with the person requesting your time. Ury calls this a "positive no."

His proven formula uses a “yes-no-yes” response. A positive no has three simple parts:

  1. Yes. Remember that first you are choosing to say yes to yourself and protecting the things that are most important to you. This first step also includes positively acknowledging the other person’s request.
  2. No. The second step involves a clear "no" that sets boundaries — no need to be rude, just matter-of-fact. Avoid ever using “maybe.”
  3. Yes. The positive no formula ends with a yes that affirms the relationship and offers another solution or option.

Here’s an example of how this might work in a real holiday scenario. Let’s say your sister has just asked you to host an impromptu family cookie exchange with all the cousins.Yes: “That idea sounds like lots of fun. I’ve been to several cookie exchanges before.”

No: “However, I am unable to offer my home for the party. I just cannot have my home ready in time.”

Yes: “What if we held the party at the community center instead? Or I could send out the invitations if you want to hold the party at your home.”

This technique allows you to first say yes to yourself, preserve the relationship, and then offer a suggestion for something you are willing or have time to do.

Just as quickly as the holidays have arrived, they will pass. Learning to say no is a technique we can use all year long.


About the Author: Nicole Carpenter ----------------------------------

*Nicole Carpenter is the founder of www.MOMentity.com and the creator of The MOMentity Process. She is a communications consultant, writer and speaker. She and her husband are raising four children, 7 years and younger, including twin toddlers.**

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