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Friday, April 9, 2010

The Power of No-ing


Little word. Lotta impact.

However, it can be a tough word to say.

This week, I drove an hour and a half each way to a planning meeting. Our goal was to set up a writers group. I wanted to be there. I believe the group would add value to my life. But I ended up saying no to this opportunity.

Was it easy to email the leader and decline? Yes and no. I'm sad I won't be able to participate, but I'm relieved not to have another commitment.

How about you? Are there times you've taken on a role, joined another group, or volunteered for another task and ended up wishing you could back out?

Yup. I'd venture to say we all have.

So, how can we guard against taking on too much?
  1. Realize that we have limitations ~ Many of you write, but you also work outside the home, have children still living with you, are caring for a parent . . . The list goes on. We can't do it all. There are only so many hours in the day. That's reality.
  2. Realize the need to focus on our top priorities ~ As writers, creating our stories has to be a priority. However, if we overcommit, we can end up neglecting our writing as we attempt to get everything else done.
  3. Realize there will always be opportunities to serve ~ On my loops, there are seemingly endless pleas for people willing to serve as contest judges, influencers, committee members, etc. But we don't have to respond. If we don't, often others will.
  4. Realize we might not be the best person for the job ~ Even though we want to help, we may not be the one best suited to the task at that time. If we've got a full plate, adding another item could result in poor performance, ultimately letting others down. By stepping aside, we free up the position for someone who has the time to do a better job than we would.
I went through the items on this list as I drove home from the planning meeting, acknowledged the reality that I'm not the person to help establish this new group, and felt a sense of peace . . . until I thought about the need to send the email to the leader informing her of my decision.

What enabled me to combat the guilt and sense of obligation, type the message, and zap it to the leader?

I gave myself permission to Just Say No.

And it worked. I hit send. Not long after I received the nicest reply in which the leader said she understood my decision. No guilt. I shared an alternative to holding face-to-face meetings. She thanked me for it and is considering it.

Saying no worked.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I wanna know ~

Do you find it difficult to turn down requests?

Are there things on your plate you'd like to unload?

Have you said no and been surprised at the positive results?


Katie Ganshert said...

This is SUCH a valuable lesson and one I know I struggle with. It's hard to say no, especially when that something is a good thing.

Keli Gwyn said...

Wow, Katie! The cyber ink hadn't even dried, and you were here with a comment. Thanks.

Often, the things I have to say no to are good things. My challenge is to determine which are the best and focus on those.

MaryC said...

Hi Keli,

Good for you for knowing when to say no and having the courage to do so.

I think it's a fairly common problem among women. I even have a partial I wrote with that title.

I've gotten better about saying no, but I didn't on two occasions and ended up with a dog and a cat. =:)
I love the addition of the family pets but they eat up an enormous amount of my writing time - especially the dog.

Kudos to you for recognizing your needs and standing up for them.

Julie Jarnagin said...

Number 4 is a big one for me. I used to try to be involved with everything at my church. Now, I think about that if I take a volunteer opportunity I'm not sure about, maybe I'm keeping someone who is really meant to be in that position from having it.

Susan DiMickele said...

Kelli, I can't get past #1. Most days, I'm trying to do it all -- and no is not in my vocabulary! Thanks for the reminder and the post!

Anne Barton said...

Great post, Keli! I have no problem saying no. My kids will back me up on this. ;)

You make excellent points, and it's easy to spread ourselves too thin. I think I'll give myself permission to sleep in tomorrow. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

These are great tips on what to ask myself before I make a commitment to another group or activity. I also do an integrity check. It's very positive when I say no and stay in integrity.

Keli Gwyn said...

Mary C ~ I'm sure your pets are glad you didn't say no. :) Glad you've been able to say no in other areas though.

Julie ~ It took me a while to realize that if I were quick to step in to answer calls for volunteers, others who were a bit hesitant might not offer.

Susan ~ No is such a small word, but it can be so hard to get out, can't it?

Anne ~ I hope you enjoying sleeping in. After the full week you've had, I'm sure you can use the extra shut-eye.

Lynn ~ I like the idea of doing an integrity check before making a commitment. That would make a great addition to the list.

Laura Marcella said...

Great post, Keli! I know my limitations and priorities, but it's still hard to say no because I feel bad about it. But I have to remember to take care of myself first or else I won't be able to care for anyone else. Doesn't it seem like women generally have a tougher time saying no than men? Hmm, maybe we should learn something from that...

Keli Gwyn said...

Laura, you're wise to realize that if we don't take our own needs into consideration and end up overcommiting, we may well find ourselves unable to "be there" for others who need us. One of the questions I ask someone who is caring for an ailing loved one is, "What are you doing for yourself?" They often neglect themselves and appreciate a reminder of the importance of taking their own needs into consideration.

I agree that women have a harder time saying no than men. I think our more emotional natures come into play. We don't want to hurt someone or let someone down. However, when we realize that we may ultimately end up doing just that if we take on too much, that can help ease the guilt of saying no.

sherrinda said...

What a great post, Keli. Goodness, I struggle with this. There are so many good things I am doing, or asked to do, and I know I put pressure on myself in thinking I HAVE to do them. I certainly need to implement that teeny little word in my vocabulary more. :)

Keli Gwyn said...

Sherrinda, I put pressure on myself too. One thing I'm learning is to consider the situation from the other side. When I ask someone to do something, such as be a guest on my blog, my goal isn't to strong arm her into accepting my offer. I'm perfectly OK with both a yes or a no. In fact, I appreciate it when someone tells me her schedule is overfull and feels she couldn't do the interview justice at that time. Remembering this helps me when a request is made of me.

Terri Tiffany said...

A few years ago, I was the person who never said no. Then we had a death in our family and it struck me that life happens, fast and I need to make the most use of my time. I don't feel guilty saying now. I feel more guilty saying yes when I want to say no.
GOod for you to know what you can take on right now.

Keli Gwyn said...

Terri, death does being about a changed outlook, doesn't it? While helping settle my father-in-law's trust, I had to pull out of many things. I wasn't as quick to resume my former duties afterward because of the perspective I'd gained. I take my time before adding new things to my schedule now.

Sandra Heska King said...

This is my story. This is my song!

There is such freedom in the word, "No." I've learned that the hard way. Every need is not our call, and our quick "yes" can steal an opportunity from someone else. And we can be too much about the doing and not enough about the being. As far as church, I teach a weekly ladies Bible study now. That's it. I need my time to study and pray. And write.

I'm living in a Dagwood sandwich with parents in their 80s, adult children who are still a bit needy (daughter is a single mom0, grandma/mom to a 7-year-old with another on the way. I need my flexibility and my sanity. :)

Keli Gwyn said...

Sandra, thanks for visiting my blog. I like your point: "We can be too much about the doing and not enough about the being." I remember hearing once that we are human beings, not human doings.

I feel for you on the sandwich generation issues. That's tough.

Angela Breidenbach said...

I have to be very intentional about saying no. It's easy for me to want to help everyone and everything. But by learning no, I'm better at the helping and more sane too.

The hardest to say no to is my family. But I've started asking the question of myself, "Are they shirking their own responsibility?" When I see that they really can do it, I back off.

It's been hard sometimes, but I know I am healthier for it. By saying no, I was able to complete my newest book, Creative Cooking for Colitis. I'm so excited! But you should have seen the interruptions and battles for my time. I learned I have to say no or be unproductive.

Angie Breidenbach

Pepper Basham said...

Great post, Keli.
Oooh, what a little tough word, but your post was timely and much needed.
Btw, congrats on getting an agent. I've heard GREAT things about Rachel

Keli Gwyn said...

Angela, thanks for visiting my blog. I see you on our ACFW main loop and on FB, and it's so cool to see you here. Congrats on your latest book--and for being able to say no so it could become a reality.

Pepper, thanks for the congrats. I'm thrilled Rachelle offered to represent me. That's one time I said yes without hesitation. :D

prashant said...

I certainly need to implement that teeny little word in my vocabulary more. :)
data entry work from home

T. Anne said...

Love your tips! I have to tell you that about twelve years ago I mastered the fine art of saying no. Ever since then I've watched my friends submit themselves to tasks they are not interested in just because of their inability to say that little bitty word. Powerful indeed.

Keli Gwyn said...

Prashant, thanks for stopping by. I wish you well as you work to say no more often.

T. Anne, kudos to you for learning the power of saying no so long ago. Sure makes life a lot less stressful and more enjoyable when we don't overccommit, doesn't it?

Jessica Nelson said...

I'm careful about putting too much on my plate, but if there's a request (as opposed to me offering) I find it really hard to say no and usually only do if there's a specific reason I can't do it.
Thank goodness I don't get too many requests! LOL

I agree that it's important to keep priorities right. I'm working on that every moment, it seems! That's why I'm letting laundry molder on my couch while I read blogs. *grin*

Keli Gwyn said...

Jessie, it can be tough to turn down requests from those we care about, especially when we'd really like to help, can't it? Glad you've got your priorities straight when it comes to laundry though. :) I'm finally facing Mount McLaundry today after putting if off as long as I could.

Pepper Basham said...

LOL, Keli
I call it Mount Washmore ;-)

Dianne Duvall said...

Saying no is definitely difficult for me. I can and do say it whenever I must, but feel tremendously guilty afterward. I've been trying to follow 2 on your list - focusing on top priorities -- more this year. The result surprised me: My productivity as a writer increased more than I thought it would. But it meant saying no more; and saying no hasn't gotten any easier. (Though I admit, saying no to laundry has.) Remembering number 3 on your list will help a lot. I tend to forget that one. Thanks for the great list!

Jill Kemerer said...

I love the excitement of new things, so I say "yes" more than I probably should. But I'm not afraid to back out of a group or commitment after I've given it a good amount of time and find it no longer fits.

It's encouraging to hear you follow your heart.

Keli Gwyn said...

Pepper, Mount Washmore is sooo clever!

Dianne, kudos to you on getting your priorities straight and the resulting increase in productivity. Even though saying no doesn't seem to get any easier, reaping the benefits of doing so does help offset some of my guilt.

Jill, you're wise to give yourself permission to end a commitment if you discover it's not a good fit for you at that time. When I've kept doing something I didn't want to out of a sense of obligation or pressure, I've been known to have a less than ideal attitude. I find it's better to be honest and end the commitment than to risk feeling resentful or becoming so overcommitted that I haven't time to do a good job anyhow.

Duane Scott said...

I'm not a writer, but then again I am. I keep kidding myself saying, "I'm just a blogger."

But the truth is, I need to spend time with this talent if I want to nurture and grow it.

Thanks for this post. Lots of good advice!

Kerrie said...

Yes, I have found it hard to say NO in the past but now am able to do it! I am visiting from a link on another Christian blog and am glad I did. Have a wonderful day, Kerrie

Keli Gwyn said...

Duane, I consider a blogger a writer. You may not be a novelist, but you're writing, right?

Kerrie, thanks for visiting my blog. I'm glad you're mastering the art of saying no.

Heather Sunseri said...

This is such a great post, Keli. I have resigned from a volunteer position that I've had for four years. It was so difficult. I felt guilty b/c I couldn't find someone to replace me, and there is still a need. But, I'm definitely not the right person for the job, the job grew bigger than me, and I wasn't doing a good job anymore because I was spread so thin. I had to finally realize that backing away gracefully could lead to the right person realizing the need was there. So, I'm praying for that, and in the meantime I've found a great peace with it, so I know it's the right thing for me.

Billy Coffey said...

I'll be the first to admit I struggle with this. A LOT. I love your suggestions here, and I'm writing them down.

Keli Gwyn said...

Heather, I admire you for realizing the time had come to relinquish the position. I've often been amazed (and humbled) to see what happened when I did the same. On many occasions, the Lord called another person to serve who brought new energy and enthusiasm to the project.

Billy, it's kinda reassuring to hear that guys have similar struggles. My impression is that you fellows find it easier to say no than we gals. Wonder if I can look forward to one of your excellent story posts on this subject. I'd like to hear your take on things--Billy Coffey style.

Rosslyn Elliott said...

I have only just begun to learn the art of saying no. But I am happy to report that it's working! And it feels so good to know that I am able to draw boundaries where before I struggled. The contract helps with that.

Jody Hedlund said...

Hi Keli! What an excellent post! Yes, it's incredibly hard to say no! Lately I've been getting a little more interest in people having me do guest posts or interviews, which I'm thrilled to do! But because I'm in the middle of finishing my WIP and judging contest entries, I've had to respond by saying that I can do more over the summer. So, I've been learning to graciously ask if I can wait!

Susan Hollaway said...

Yes. I have trouble saying no. This was a great post, Keli!
Thank you for sharing!