How to Say No Gracefully

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I don’t know when it happened, but at some point, someone hit the fast-forward button on our lives. We answer emails within a minute of receiving them. We order a book online and want it the next day. We meet someone at an online dating site and want to meet up with them that same evening. It’s like we’ve all decided that faster, faster, faster is better. But think of how many things are so much better when done slowly. Eating slowly helps you know when you are full so that you don’t overeat. Slow sex (at least for me!) is often much more enjoyable than slamming into one other frantically. Slow travel allows you to experience the feeling of living in a foreign place rather than shuttling yourself from one tourist attraction to another. In many of life’s pursuits, I find that the slow way is simply more enjoyable.

One easy thing you can do today that will change your life is to slow down and be more present. Be mindful of your breathing. Pay attention to the way you carry your body. Take pause and survey your thoughts, and make sure they are the kinds of thoughts you want to be thinking. To me, slowness equates to the notion of loving-kindness found in Buddhism and other spiritual traditions. Think of how you or others behave when you’re in a rush. You’re easily irritated, annoyed at others who get in your way. Everything seems to be going wrong. Everybody seems like they’re out to get you. When you slow down, you have the presence of mind to appreciate the people and environment surrounding you and the deliciousness of your own thoughts and ideas. Slowness gives you the space and the patience to move through the world with kindness and love toward others and yourself.

Part of slowing down is to not have the knee-jerk reaction to say yes to every request that is made of you. Saying no is one of the most powerful things you can do for yourself. Many women have a hard time saying no because we’re naturally inclined to help others before we nurture ourselves. Meet every opportunity with gratitude while being mindful of your own desires, time, and energy. Here are several reasons why you should learn to exercise your “no” muscle.

1. You’ll have more time to yourself.

Do you often feel tired, stressed out, and like you’re constantly running from one thing to the next? It’s because you keep saying yes to everything! Fabulous women need time to cultivate our luscious lives: sleep, do our hair, read a great book, take a bubble bath, clean our apartments, cook ourselves a delicious meal, do yoga, watch a movie, paint while drinking wine, go shopping, and write in our journals. When you say yes to every party invitation, volunteer event, and comply with every requested favor from a friend, you end up losing time to nurture your mind, body, and soul, as well as crucial time you need to run simple errands.

2. You’ll teach other people about your boundaries.

People in our lives will encroach on our personal space and time as much as we let them. Those people include work colleagues, managers, clients, friends, boyfriends, and family. It’s not that they have bad intentions. If you don’t want your time eaten up by a litany of requests and obligations, then you must set your boundaries confidently and consistently. By saying no more often, you’ll find that people won’t have you at the top of their go-to list for every little favor. It doesn’t mean that they’ll think you are selfish or rude. ey will just know that you protect your time and space and are not immediately responsive to surprise requests.

3. You’ll empower those around you.

You can say no and still be helpful by pointing people to another resource. When you stop rushing to do everything for everyone, you create the opportunity for people to find other resources and answers outside of you.

4. You’ll say yes to the important things.

When you say no to revamping your friend’s resume, you say yes to having two precious uninterrupted hours to work on your novel. When you say no to ironing your man’s clothes for the week, you’ll likely have more energy to have sex with him that night. (Every married guy I know would take sex with his wife over crisply ironed shirts any day.) When you say no to your colleague’s last- minute request to stay late for a meeting, you say yes to taking your dog to the o?-leash park.

What will you accomplish when you say no?



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Walker's Legacy is a growing global women in business collective founded to establish networks of empowerment and access for women of color in business.