Saying No Is Hard.

On a short family vacation, I had some time to relax, think and get clear about my priorities. I realized I was spread too thin and had noticed some projects I had agreed to really didn’t fit into my top priorities. When I said “yes”, I was excited about the projects, but now just thinking about them stresses me out. I was feeling a mix of guilt, inadequacy, and fear. How do I work toward saying no?

What do you do when you have already said “yes”? You gave your word. People are counting on you, and you pride yourself on being someone who honors commitments, no matter what. Do you suck it up and try harder, or do you call it quits?

A “Saying No” Script To Get You Started

Tell the truth. You will respect yourself, and others will respect you, too.  When done well, you can save your integrity and preserve the relationship.

  • As you know, back in January I agreed to chair your committee. When I said “yes”, I fully believed I had the bandwidth to do a great job.
  • In March, one of my partners unexpectedly retired. Great for her, but it also dramatically impacted my workload.
  • It pains me to say this, but I must step down from this commitment. The committee deserves a great outcome, and I will not be able to deliver as I thought I would.
  • I apologize for causing any inconvenience. While I can’t chair the committee, I am willing to support this program moving forward by…

Although people may be disappointed that you are saying no in the short run, it is far better to retain others’ trust and your own credibility by being realistic about what you can deliver.

What have you tried that worked in this tough situation? I’d love to hear from you.

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