Creatively Learning to Say No

As a mother it seems like sometimes there’s just way much to do and too little time. Every time I feel that way, I know that it is not true. Feeling overwhelmed or trapped is usually a trap we put on ourselves.  When I am focused on what I am committed to do, I can always align myself to that commitment and find ways to get things done.

Joe and Me

One of the ways to handle what I want to do, is to manage what I don’t want to do. This is especially difficult when dealing with my children. I tend to take on what my husband or sister wives want, and especially want to be there for my children when they ask for things.

Finding how to say no has saved me a lot of stress and helped me to focus on those things I want to focus on. I have too often taken on things that I can’t do or that conflict with the things that are really important to me.

This is me with my son Louis

Learning to say no to my own mother when she calls to chat in the middle of the day, or my husband when he asks me to take on a project is not always easy for me. Even sometimes it is learning to say no to myself; to the ideas I have.

The following ideas are tips I have found to say no to myself and remain focused on what’s most important. First of all I have learned I can say no without uttering the word. By keeping focused on these guidelines my life has been much easier.

First, when a request is made of me, I have learned not to respond immediately. If I am asked to do something that is not part of my primary focus I let the person know I will get back to them. I then take some time to  assess the pros and cons of saying yes. This is typically from reflecting upon my goals and reviewing how saying yes will impact them. Sometimes even the simple requests may put me behind schedule. This perspective allows me to ask the question, “Is it worth it?” I always have a right to say no, and when I realize that, I make a choice to say no, especially with my children whom I tend to want to please too much.


This leads me to the second thing I have learned; finding creative solutions. Sometimes I say yes because I just want to be nice. Saying no does not mean that I am not a nice person; it simply means that I have priorities and boundaries. If something is going to affect my commitments or schedules, I offer solutions.

For example, my son will ask if I will take him to his friends. I will let him know I want to, but have other commitments and see if his sister is driving to work and can drop him off. Then perhaps I can pick him up later.  No doesn’t necessarily mean never.

Finally, I have learned when I do say no, I keep it simple and don’t explain in detail or apologize. When I let them know that it doesn’t work for me, I am empowered and they respect me for it. I am kind in my response. I try to put myself in someone’s shoes and find the words that will be understood from that person’s point of view. If it is someone like Joe who is more direct, I am brief and direct; if its one of my daughters who is more emotional then I use a more compassionate tone.

I have found long explanations and apologies tend to backfire, causing the other person, especially my younger kids to push harder and me to question my decision. Try to not complicate the situation, just kindly say no with a brief explanation (one sentence) or creative solution attached.

Kyley and Kadence

I am still learning and it doesn’t always come easy. But learning to manage my time and my self respect, while relaying the love and commitment I have to the relationships in my life is important to me. If you can resist the hasty yes and keep track of the benefits, you will soon be delivering a powerful no with ease!

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6 Responses to Creatively Learning to Say No

  1. Paweł Szulik says:

    This post is both practical and inspirational. I’ve never thought that the mode of saying ‘no’ is so important. I feel encouraged.

    Next thing I understand from this post is the importance of being focused of priorities. There are important things and unimportant things. Those unimportant usually disturb us when we do those important. I am encouraged to focus on important and forget about many unimportant. It’s one of the keys of success.

    Thank you, Valerie. Thank you very much. You’re so wise. I think you post too rarely. I wait for more reflections of yours.

  2. Tami VanderWerff says:

    Thank you, Valerie for posting such wise words that bring comfort to me. I often get caught up in the day to day of saying yes and found at Christmas time I had spread myself so thin that I was not enjoying the season and the meaning behind it. I need to learn to empower myself and to be OK with that you have helped me to do that. I so enjoyed your TLC special and learning about your family. I think too many times we are caught up in the judging and belittling of another person and their beliefs. I was impressed and amazed by your family and the story behind you. I do hope to see more and read more about all that you have going in your lives. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Amy Manning says:

    Love this Valerie! I have such a hard time telling people “No”. My parents taught me to help out when asked and my culture tells us that Service is important. Which it is, but at what cost? I want my kids to know the importance of serving others, but I also want to teach them to not be overwhelmed with so many projects. Thanks for reminding me and giving us a few pointers in being thoughtful about committing to a project.

  4. Paweł Szulik says:

    I think, yes, we should serve others. I always say we must be servants, but we mustn’t be slaves. There is a difference between servant and a slave. Servant is hired to do the service, but is a free man. Slave is not free – he is owned by someone. We are not anyones property, we are free people, and we should behave as free.

    If someone believes in God, as I am, I can say we must be slaves of God, but for people we are their servants.

    I think Valerie showed the balance. She showed how to be a servant and not to become a slave. Thank you again for that, Valerie.

    • Erica Welch says:

      the difference between a servant and a slave-the way you put it-is so eloquent and inspiration (as is this post!)
      well said!

  5. Melinda says:

    I have always had a hard time saying no. I feel like I’m always putting the needs and wants before anything else. It seems that the people around me have learned that if they need help in anyway I’m the one to call. This has put me in to a hardship from time to time. Like right now, my brother and sister in law just lost their daughter and they didn’t have the money to cremate her, they have less then I do so I paid for everything knowing that I couldn’t afford it either. Now I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to pay my electric bill. Or when a girl I grew up with showed up at my house pregnant with twins and a single mom with no place to live. I moved her in and then moved out of my house into a rental so she had a home of her own. I always looked at doing things like this as me doing the lords work. I think I’m going to start saying no now. It’s going to be hard for me but I think it’s time. My kids may get upset now because for the most part I don’t tell them no and when I do if it’s something that costs money I always say wait until payday and then I’ll get it for you. But I’m always trying to make up for the that their dad is gone and they are having to be raised by a single mom. It’s hard but I think it’s time to use that little word more often. Thank you Val!!!!

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