Why and How to Say No to Requests

“No” is a complete sentence. ~~ Annie Lamont

I have learned to say no to non-essential requests since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s. When I say yes to something I really do not want to do, I am also saying no to something I cherish more. What I decide to do is often different from my pre-Parkinson’s days. I have to be vigilant in protecting the white space on my calendar from interesting but unnecessary requests and using it for my life purpose and “A” priorities.

The Right Kind of Requests for Me–Maybe, Maybe Not

These requests have come my way since my PD diagnosis in 2014.

A Favor:  My plane lands at PBI at 10 PM. Can you pick me up? Can I consign some items for you to sell on eBay? Will you coach me on how to sell on eBay? Can you bring two dozen cookies to the meeting tonight due to a last minute cancellation? Will you write me a letter of recommendation?

Leadership:  Will you be an interim virtual coordinator for the prior learning assessment department for two months? Will you serve as chairman of the committee? The nominating committee would like you to run for treasurer. Will you be my vice-regent? Will you run for co-president? Will you run on our slate of officers for second vice-president?  How about being the parliamentarian? Will you serve as a director on the board?

Community: Will you collect from five of your neighbors for the Lung Association? Will you be the club’s January speaker? Will you manage the registration table for our fundraiser like you have for five years? Will you donate a gift basket for our benefit?

Fun Stuff:  Can you go thrift shopping on Wednesday?  A group of us is meeting for Happy Hour tomorrow. We’d love to see you. Will you submit an entry to our anthology? Will you join us for lunch next Tuesday to discuss program ideas? Will you be a judge for the writing contest?

After a couple of years with PD, I knew what I was capable of accomplishing. I knew where the boundaries were and stayed out of the danger zone. Some requests as listed above stretched me too far and had to be declined.

Two Questions to Determine Yes or No

My simple “two questions” method helps me to decide on yes or no response based on purpose and priorities.

Does the request support my life purpose?

  • To make a heartfelt difference

Does the request support my “A” priorities and commitments?

  • Physical, mental, and spiritual health
  • Relationships with family, friends, colleagues, students
  • Parkinson’s My Way website and blog
  • Creative pursuits such as poetry, photography, writing
  • Unique travel and educational experiences
  • Organizations such as Daughters of the American Revolution
  • eBay business selling and preserving vintage selections

Two Techniques for How to Say No

If I decide to say yes, that’s an easy response. If it is no, the goal is to convey that decision and not to change my mind. According to Jonathan Price, tone is the hardest part of saying no.

My two favorite lines are:

  • I am already fully committed. Thank you for asking.
  • I have a commitment. Maybe another time.

These statements work for me because they are short, simple, and polite. They are stated with confidence leaving little room for me to be persuaded! They do not offer excuses or specific reasons. I don’t think it is always necessary to explain. For example, my commitment might be writing next week’s blog, or going to the neurologist, or relaxing in nature.

The more I talk, the more I will give in and accept. I may feel guilty. I do not want to disappoint. I will talk myself into it. “Well, maybe I can shift that doctor’s appointment around and make it to your event.” Later, I realize I cannot cancel an important appointment I had been waiting on for three months! By hemming and hawing, I create a stressful situation that I still have to decline.

Suzette Hinton says, “We must say “no” to what, in our heart, we don’t want. We must say “no” to doing things out of obligation, thereby cheating those important to us of the purest expression of our love. We must say “no” to treating ourselves, our health, our needs as not as important as someone else’s. We must say “no.”

When I Really Need to Think About It

Sometimes, the request is not one that I can decide on the spot. Maybe I need to talk to someone or gather more information. I only use this technique when I really do need to think about it. Otherwise, I am prolonging the agony of delivering my negative answer. I also follow through with my decision to respond within the time frame promised. Here is what I say:

  • I need to think about that. I will let you know by Friday. I appreciate you asking.
  • I need to check my schedule. I will call you in two days. Thank you for thinking of me.

Offer Up An Idea

I offer legitimate alternatives when possible and leave the person with another direction to pursue. Have you considered asking Marsha or Sheila? I can also offer to help in a different way.  For example, I am unable to make twenty center pieces for this year’s benefit, but I will make a monetary contribution. Or I will pay for the program printing.

In closing, sometimes, I accept or decline a request because of Parkinson’s. But in other instances Parkinson’s has nothing to do with the decision and is never mentioned. Either way, I stay true to my purpose and priorities.

Question to Ponder:  How do you decide what requests to accept or decline?









    • Donna Link on October 30, 2018 at 11:22 pm
    • Reply

    Interesting, well-written, and very useful, Linda. Saying no is not always easy–especially for us women! We aim to please. . .

    I’m directing my neighbor to this blog!

    Just one thing though; if you say yes, then don’t complain about it!

    Keep blogging! But only if you feel like it!

    1. Hi Donna, yes, we are taught as little girls to please! I hope your neighbor is doing well. Please tell her to contact me anytime. Thanks for your clever remarks!

    • Karen Bryson on November 1, 2018 at 11:11 pm
    • Reply

    Again, some great advice Linda.
    The method I use lately is… if it stresses me thinking about it, I say no.
    I love that you make time to blog, I really enjoy reading it! Keep it up!


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