A recent encounter with an old friend reminded me of one of the hidden challenges in retirement. The problem that Peter described was saying “no” to the many requests he receives to lend a hand now that he supposedly has time on his hands.
Saying no is easy, sometimes. It’s easy to say I can’t do that/come along/help because I’ll be away/have a dental appointment/have broken my arm.
What makes saying no easy in these situations is that you have a watertight reason to say no. In fact, you can’t say yes. However, when saying yes is an option and you have no reason to refuse. then it can be difficult to say no.
We are (mostly) kind caring and honest people who want to help and please others. It can feel like we are failing to be kind if we don’t say yes and acquiesce to someone’s request.
But if we do say yes when we want to say no we are failing to be honest. If we just keep saying yes when we want to say no we will eventually feel more resentment than kindness.
Like so many things in life, we need to strive for balance when acquiescing and refusing. If you need to cut someone out of your life, say no 100 per cent of the time.
Do this with an abusive person, or someone who manipulates you or has a consistently negative impact on you. If you wish to keep the person in your life, then work out a ratio that suits you.
For example, it may be a 50 per cent yes and 50 per cent no response or 30 per cent yes and 70 per cent no etc. Recognising that you have a yes – no plan can help you keep on track and protect you from feelings of being used.
Apply your plan either to an individual or just generally if you are subject to many requests from many people. Once you have your ratio plan make sure you are clear when you say no. If you feel you can’t respond with a clear no when you are put on the spot simply say, “let me think about it and I’ll get back to you”. This gives time to consider and plan your response.
Keep your no response simple and direct. The more you say, the more opportunity you give to the other person to question you or to suggest a change so that you will have to say yes.
Use your kindness when saying no. You might say “Thank you for thinking of me … thank you for asking me … thank you for considering that I might be interested … thank you for the opportunity…”
Use honesty in your reply “It will probably surprise you that I don’t want to … tt just doesn’t work for me … I have thought about it and I’m saying no…”
Try not to give in to the temptation to provide a reason or excuse if asked why. Rather respond vaguely … “I have a number of reasons but I’m sure you understand and respect my decision”.
Then take the lead in closing the subject “let me know how your lunch/ project/meeting goes. And what are you up to for the rest of the day?”
This might feel awkward at first and initially people might question you about why you are saying no but if you keep to the plan, you’ll find that people accept both you and your decision. And they may even appreciate your decisiveness and clarity.
Remember, just as the other person has the right to ask, you have the right to say no and when you do, you are respecting your own needs and wants and are being open and honest.
The capacity to say no will boost your sense of who you are as well your sense of self direction and determination.
Judy Rafferty is the author of Retirement Your Way, A Practical Guide to Knowing What You Want and How to Get It. Available at all good bookshops and online.