Gracious Me: The Art of Saying No

Who can forget Oprah’s big car giveaway? “You get a car! And you get a car! And you get a car!” …one of the most famous moments on modern television. How fun would it be to be able to do that? Give something to someone when they need it most? How often do we do this with our time? “Yes to you! Yes to you! And yes to you! It feels amazing to say yes; that is, until our time is stretched too thin, our projects are halfway completed, and our children are being raised by Nick Jr. We’ve all experienced moments when our mouth says “yes!” to a new project while our mind says “Retreat! Retreat!” Although it is good manners to help others, is it really polite to say “yes” when we know we shouldn’t? With work, community, family and friends pulling us in so many directions, it’s easy to over-commit. Yes, it’s great to be involved, to give back and lend a hand. But sometimes when we’ve overused “yes,” we put ourselves in a place that jeopardizes our gracious best. Suddenly the spirit behind wanting to help has been replaced by the feeling of being overwhelmed. In my personal and professional experience, I’ve found it’s quite difficult for overwhelmed and gracious to cohabitate. I’ve even tried it…for research, of course. There was a period of time when I found myself involved in five different non-profits, a start-up company, two small children and a marriage I needed to nurture. Nothing could be put on the back burner and I found myself not doing anything well. I had to stop, reevaluate, prioritize and use a word I’d never tried: “No.” You know what? It felt really good.

Art Of Saying No

So let’s have a heart to heart with our serial “yes”-sayer. Look at each “opportunity” and where it will put you on the scale of gracious to overwhelmed. Ask yourself… is “yes” the best answer, or should it be replaced with…say these things with me: * “As much as I’d love to commit to this cause, now isn’t a good time, but please think of me again.” * “Thank you for thinking of me; I’m not able to volunteer this year.” * “I’m already working on the signs for the carnival so I shouldn’t take on another task. However, I’ve heard Jane Smith wants to get involved.” Knowing yourself and your limits is key to living your gracious best. Do you find yourself saying “yes” with your mouth but “no” with your mind? What phrases do you use to graciously decline an offer? Please share. Gracious Me, gracious lifestyle column by etiquette Expert Mindy Lockard

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