Learn How to Say No

Learn How to Say No


Stop doing the things that create stress in your life and take time to discover what you need and want — then enjoy it.

Learn How to Say No
Drew Barrymore’s character Erin, in the film “He’s Just Not That Into You” gets frustrated with the complexity of modern day relationship management.
Photo courtesy of New Line Cinema.

Even Drew Barrymore was overwhelmed. “I had this guy leave me a voice-mail at work, so I called him at home … then he e-mailed me … so I texted him … you just have to go around checking all these different devices, just to get rejected by seven different technologies. It’s exhausting,” says Barrymore’s boyfriend-starved character in her 2009 hit film, “He’s Just Not That Into You.”

I don’t know about Barrymore’s real life, but mine indeed gets overwhelmed, not just by technology, but by all the demands in my personal and business life: An overloaded e-mail inbox, unopened mail, piles of papers, client communication gone unanswered, marketing activities delayed and projects backed up. There doesn’t seem to be enough time or energy to catch up, and a feeling that everyone and everything else is running my life — not me. It’s easy to get resentful and blame others for sapping all my energy and precious time.

But then, I remember it’s time to stop … breathe … and shake it all off. I do mean literally shake off the negative energy — just like a wet dog shakes to dry off. Shifting into a different “state” (like slipping into a nice, hot spa) gets energy restarted. Catching yourself in that feeling of “overwhelm” and “downward spiral thinking” is hard to do, but it gets easier. Just being aware of what you are feeling is a great start, and the perfect beginning to create positive change.

So what’s next if you ant to make a fresh start in 2013, clear out, make room and move forward?

Declutter Every Day

My friend Mary Jo throws something out every day. She has developed a fun practice of throwing out what she doesn’t need, whether she recycles it, donates it or puts it in the trash. She’s made a fun game of it, waking up to, “What am I going to get rid of today?” In the same way, consider what you don’t need any more in your personal or work life. It could be some old souvenirs, some found furniture “I’m-going-to-refinish-someday” or friends who bend your ear over small plates, yet never buy lunch. Have fun figuring out what you don’t want anymore, and get rid of it.

Take a few minutes and make a list of your “wants” and “don’t wants.” Make a list for both your personal and work life. The list should include not only physical objects, possibilities and responsibilities, but also feelings and attitudes. (You can have people on your list too!)

    • I don’t want to feel frustrated. I do want to feel appreciated.
    • I don’t want to do anymore rushing around for others. I do want more peaceful and calm time alone.
    • I don’t want self-centered friends who don’t hear me. I do want more grateful and respectful friends.

Think about relationships you enjoy and ones that you don’t. This can be a difficult, but begin to be choosy about who is in your life. As you get clear on what and whom you want and don’t want, you’ll be able to learn ways to make it happen.

Set Intentions That Support Your Goals

Creating goals or writing a vision statement is one of the best ways to discover and manifest what you want. If you didn’t write goals or intentions at the beginning of the year, as a lot of people do, then now is the perfect time. Here’s one way to keep it easy: Write down three personal and three professional objectives for the rest of the year. Keep it simple; just write whatever comes into your mind first, then fine-tune. Now use these six objectives as a thermometer in your daily life.

Before you say yes or no to any new opportunities or requests from others, give yourself time to measure them against your six objectives. You can always say, “Let me get back to you on that.” We often feel obligated to people and say “yes” before we seriously consider how it lines up with what we really want.

Perhaps you spend a lot of time making your boss look good and/or “always taking care” of others in your life. They probably even lean on you because you have the strengths they lack. What if you spent less time taking care of others and took care of your needs, wants and desires first? What if you dropped everything else, to do something for yourself? When was the last time you went to the spa, read a book for hours or turned off your cell phone?

Say “yes” and “no” more often. If Barrymore had said no to the busy boyfriend earlier in that movie, she would have had more time for herself, and less time attached to her iPhone.

Brad StaufferBrad Stauffer is a small business coach and marketing consultant. His company, On the Mark Branding, provides business growth services to small businesses and solo entrepreneurs.

Copyright © Brad Stauffer / 2013 Singular Communications, LLC.


1. Make “fun” a priority. Get five sticky notes and write a fun activity on each one — something you have always wanted to do. Then stick them on your bathroom mirror as a reminder.

2. Declutter for money. Instead of donating household items or old stuff, try selling them on eBay or Craigslist. It can be more fun and put some dollars in your pocket.

3. Partner for success. As you take steps to make changes, get an accountability buddy. Share short-term goals and help remind and encourage each other of what you want. Meet up for coffee or do it over e-mail.

4. Do some downtime. My friend Kat always says, “More downtime gives you more uptime.” When you are rested and relaxed, you are more energized, inspired and productive.

5. Connect more. Take time to get together with friends or family. Mail an old-fashioned birthday card occasionally. Think of favorite people you haven’t seen in a while and connect with them … offline.

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