Sylvia Henderson

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SL Column: Can You Say

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Can You Say, “No”?

     One of the most difficult parts of a motorcycle to reach is one of the most important to the machine’s operation. A small fuse, approximately a half-inch square, is located (on my bike) in a place that requires removing the gas tank and reaching through a tangle of wires to access. This small fuse affects the electrical operation of the vehicle, which affects whether the motorcycle starts and keeps running or not.

     The longest word in the English language, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis. This is probably one of the most difficult to pronounce as spelled, but unless you are a bio-scientist you most likely have little chance of using the word. The most difficult word for many of us to pronounce happens to be one of the smallest and easiest to spell … “No”. This statement is a cliché, with proof provided by doing an Internet search on the phrase “most difficult word”. While it may be a cliché, it seems to be true. Stop what you are doing right now. How many balls are you juggling in your life at this moment? Which ones can you look at and wonder, “Why did I say ‘yes’ to this?”

     To the rescue are some suggestions for how to say “no” the next time someone asks you to do something you know, in your gut, you really should not add to your life at the time.

  • “I see the benefit in doing [fill in the blank] and appreciate your asking me to handle it. I must respectfully turn down the offer for the time being.”
  • “I cannot give [it] the appropriate attention, this time, for the thorough job I expect for anything I take on.”
  • “I have a previous commitment to which I must attend at this time. Would [name an alternative time / deadline] work within your deadlines?”
  • “I am uncomfortable with [fill in the blank] and need to pass on it.”
  • … and sometimes, the word just has to be, “No”.

     Most importantly, do not apologize for having to say “no”. You must take care of yourself and manage the demands made of you (and that you make of yourself) before you can take care of others. You’ve heard it before. Now, let’s practice one more time … can you say, “no”? Yes, you can.


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