Saying yes is easy, and some of us say it way too often. Whether or not you live with chronic illness, it’s important to learn how to say no. Often we say yes without even thinking about it, we don’t think about the opportunity costs of saying yes and how saying yes to one thing always means saying no to something else. Before we say yes, we need to ask ourselves 10 questions to determine if what you are saying yes to is really something you should be saying yes to.
Sometimes, saying no just isn’t an option. But, more often it is an option and you need to really think about these things before jumping straight to saying yes.
Before you say yes ask yourself:
1 . Is saying yes in your best interest? Sometimes you’re going to have to say yes even when it’s not in your best interest. When my mom was sick and called me up needing something I dropped everything. In those moments, my interest didn’t matter and I chose to put her needs above my own. That’s a very specific situation, and likely the exception rather than the rule. If my mom called me up and said “go have lunch with me” and I wasn’t feeling well or was busy with work I’d say “no, I have to _____ today”.
When my (then) husband totaled his car several years ago I was still at the worst of my illness, but when I got that call I threw my shoes on and was out the door. However, had he just called and said “go have dinner with me” my answer would have been a resounding “I can’t”. We have to weigh our values and decide whether what we are saying yes to is really more important / better for us than what we are saying no to in that moment.
2 . Is it worth the opportunity cost? Evaluate the options in front of you. For every situation where you say yes, you are saying no to something else. What are you giving up to say yes? Is it really worth it? Is the thing you are giving up of so little importance that you can just pass on it?
When we don’t stop to consider the things are passing up in order to say yes to something, we often end up regretting later. These are often the situations where we find ourselves flaking at the last minute, because we’ve since realized that there was something else that we’d prefer to do.
3 . Do / Will you have the energy to do it? Will your cup be full enough to give what is being asked? Often with chronic illness we really don’t know how much will be in our cup at any time. We don’t know if a week away we’ll have the energy to attend an event. We need to consider this before we agree to do something. Sometimes it’s better for everyone to say “I’m really not sure if I can do that. I can pencil it in but I can’t make any promises.” It’s better not to commit than to do something halfway or to have to back out at the last-minute.
Continually saying yes only to back out later is what leads others to think we are flaky. While there are situations out of our control when we believe we’ll have the energy only to have the situation change, but if we are too quick to say yes and often flake because of it, it makes us look bad and lead to resentment from those around us.Sometimes It's better not to commit than to do something halfway or to have to back out at the last-minute. Click To Tweet
4 . Am I the best person for this task? Sometimes we are just so excited to be asked to do things that we forget that we may not always be the best person for the task. Think about whether you really have the skills and time to commit to the task. Do you know someone who might be a better person for the job? If so, share the opportunity. If you feel you can do some aspects but maybe not others, you can always agree to do certain things and either ask the person who gave you the opportunity to find someone else for the remainder of the task or you can ask someone to help you out.
I’ve been here many times when clients have asked me to do specific jobs. Sometimes they are asking for something that I know I can do easily. Other times they ask for something that I am not fully capable of at that time and might require me to learn a new skill. I love to learn and because of that I often want to say yes even when I don’t fully have the knowledge to complete a task. But, then I have to weigh, can I really learn this new skill and complete the task in the time given? Sometimes even when the answer is yes, I realize that it still may not be in my best interest to do so.
5 . What’s at stake? What does the person asking you for this favor really want? Is it as simple as the ask that it’s in front of you or do they want more? Are they asking you for this favor just to get in the door and ask for more later?
Not long ago an acquaintance asked me for help with an event. It was a small online event and they asked for help with a very simple task that was no big deal to me. I thought it would only take a few minutes during the event and since I’d planned to participate in the event anyway, it wasn’t out of my way time-wise. What I thought was a 5 minute ask turned into 2+ hours of work (mostly outside of the actual event).
By the time I was done I was annoyed and vowed to never say yes to this person again. I probably could have made more of an effort up front to make sure that we were on the same page about what she was looking for and we probably both would have been happier for it.
It’s important to set your boundaries and hold yourself and others to them. Honor yourself and value your time. If someone asks for something that you are comfortable saying yes to, make sure that you are both on the same page of what is being asked and set limits to what you will do. If they try to push you for more, remind them of the limits that were set.
6 . Can I think about it? Whenever you find yourself in a situation where you feel like you have to say yes right now or the offer will be pulled away from you, the best option is probably to say no. Chances are that if someone (usually a sales person) is presenting you with a buy now or lose the opportunity scenario you are probably better off saying no. But, it’s not just sales people who do this to us.
There are a few valid scenarios where a quick decision is the only way (say your friend has an extra ticket for a show tonight, they can’t wait around for you to make up your mind – so consult your calendar, and your energy cup quickly to see if going is an option). But, most of the time that need to make an instant decision is a false need. There should be time to really consider the ask and decide if saying yes is in your best interest.
7 . What do you really want to do? Too often we say yes to things because we think it’s what someone else wants and we want to make them happy. But, is it what you want? What you want to do matters. Why is it so often seen as selfish and terrible to just say “no, I don’t want to”?
I’ve heard so many stories (and been involved in too many to count) where someone has said yes to something thinking it’s what the other person wanted only to find out that the other person only brought it up because they thought it was what person #1 wanted. Really take time to consider whether the thing you are being asked to do is something you really want to do. If it’s not (and if it’s not one of those cases where saying no isn’t option) then say no.
8 . Would you do this for yourself? For that matter, would you ask someone to do this for you? Too often we end up doing things for other people that we wouldn’t even do for ourselves, let alone think to ask someone else to do. Often, we do these things without being asked at all. We offer to do these things (out of a misplaced desire to be loved, to be the good friend/child/parent/etc). But, seriously, why are we doing things for others that we wouldn’t even do for ourselves? I love my mom and would do a lot for her, but I can barely clean my house, so I’m not going to offer to clean hers. That said, if I can afford it I might offer to pay someone to clean hers.
9 . Will saying yes hurt you? This is a big one for those of us with chronic illness. Too often saying yes will actually hurt is (whether in the short-term or the long-run). My mom is the queen of saying yes to way too much. Rather than finding out if someone else would do it, she’s just going to do it and assume no one else will, but when it comes to things that will hurt her (she’s never smoked), or things that will help her (or her children) avoid further hurt (for instance, saying yes to walking away from my father) she knows when to make the right choice. I’ve learned a lot from her.
10. Are you being taken advantage of? How many times have you said yes to a situation only to have that same person come back and ask for something else, then something else, and so on. They’ve learned quickly that you will say yes so they are going to keep asking. I know some wonderful people who allow themselves to be taken advantage of time and again. They are kindhearted people who just want to help others, the problem is that they don’t realize that by continually saying yes they have passed the point of helping and into the point of hurting both that person and themselves.
We all want to be kind and helpful to others. We want to spend time with friends and family. We want to do all the things and live a full life. None of those things are mutually exclusive. But, in order to have them all we have to really pay attention and think before we say yes.
What other questions do find it helpful to ask yourself before you say yes?