Several years ago, I had to say no to a woman who asked me to speak at an event at her church. Unfortunately, as gracious as my team and I tried to be with my no, she didn’t understand.
After receiving my no, this woman called me on my cell phone. You see, a friend had accidentally given her my number thinking it was the office number.
Well, she wasn’t happy with me. She told me that she’d been praying and said, “This is what the Lord told me to tell you: if you are too big for small churches, then you are too small for any church.”
Oh, sister, it was so hurtful. I didn’t know what to do with it. I tried to explain why I said no, but my reasons weren’t good enough. Have you ever had something like that happen?
If so, maybe you’re like me, and it’s left you hesitant to say no because you hate to disappoint other people or be misunderstood. Or perhaps you say yes when you want to say no out of impulse. It’s an emotional response to someone’s requests or needs and says a lot about your heart, generosity, and desire to love and help. Whatever the case may be, if you say yes to everything, you’re saying no to the most important things.
So, how do you know what to say no to and what to say yes to? On this episode of the 4:13 Podcast, KC and I give you a filter that you can sift every opportunity through so you can give a confident yes or a compassionate no. You’ll also learn how to say no well.
Grab your coffee or tea and get ready for four C’s that will set you free.
4 C’s to Help You Give a Confident Yes or Compassionate No
- Do I have the capability? Start by asking yourself: Am I able? Do I know how to do this? Is this in my wheelhouse? Does it fit my skill set? If it doesn’t, then it may be an easy no. For example, if someone asks me to paint their house, I’ll say no because I’m blind and not capable of painting it. But just because you get asked to do something you’re capable of doing doesn’t mean it’s an automatic yes—which is why there are four C’s, not just one.
Also, be mindful that sometimes you still need to consider giving a yes when you don’t have the skill set. God may be using the opportunity to introduce you to something new. Lots of things are more gray than black and white. So consider this first C, but never stop there unless it’s a no brainer like a blind woman painting your house.
- Do I have the capacity? Next, ask yourself: Even if I’m able, do I have the bandwidth to do this? Do I have room in my life for it? Do I have mental space to do it? Do I have the emotional wherewithal to pull it off?
Sometimes you may have the ability and even the time, but you don’t have the mental, emotional, or spiritual space. It could be that your mom is in hospice, or your job is incredibly stressful right now. We each have different capacities for stress and busyness. Different things inform our capacity. So, consider yours in the season that you’re currently in.
- Do I have the calendar? The third C has to do with your schedule. Ask yourself: Is there a blank spot on my calendar to do this? How much time will it really take? A 30-minute message someone asks me to do doesn’t take thirty minutes on my calendar. The event takes three hours–going, doing, and coming. The prep takes additional hours. So, to say yes to 30 minutes means I need two days on my calendar.
Be realistic about your calendar—a blank spot doesn’t mean you have room. Think thoroughly through what time saying yes will require.
- Do I have the call? If you have the ability, the mental space, and the calendar space, then ask: Is this what I’m supposed to do? Is it my call? When I was a newer author, my publisher suggested a book for me to write. I had the capability, capacity, and calendar, but I didn’t have the call. I ended up writing it, but it didn’t do well.
If you take a withdrawal from your account to give a yes that isn’t your call, when the next request shows up that is your call, you may have nothing left in your account to withdraw for the yes. Besides, if you do something that’s not your call, you rob someone else from the chance to live out theirs.
6 Truths About Saying No
- Saying no doesn’t make you an insensitive Christian or a selfish person. It makes you a responsible person.
- Saying no can be kind because it may prevent you from becoming an enabler in someone’s life.
- Saying no makes you a brave boundary setter.
- Saying no shows that you value the responsibilities and obligations you’ve already said yes to.
- Saying no lets other people grow and carry their load instead of constantly depending on you to rescue them.
- Saying no shows that you trust God to guide you and provide for everyone’s needs.
How to Say No Well
- Tell the truth. If you’re not sure, let whoever is asking you know that you’re uncertain or you need to check. But don’t do this to avoid saying no. Don’t dangle a yes and put others off when the answer is no. Instead, just say no. Doing this is kind because it’s the truth.
Also, if you do say yes, you have every right to qualify it in order to manage expectations. When you say that three-letter word, the other person hears more than those three letters. The word yes brings with it a list of hopes and expectations on their end. So, be clear and honest about what your yes involves to avoid confusion, frustration, or disappointment.
- Create no phrases. Often, we’re taken off guard when a request comes. In the stress of the moment, you may freeze or not know how to say no, so you just say yes. And, some askers will push, gently pressure, or even pout. They sense your vulnerability and know how to make you feel miserable until you say yes. They make it hard to say no. So, you need to have a phrase or two you can pull out before you spout a quick answer. For example:
— If I could, I would.
— Thanks for asking, that won’t work for me right now.
— I need to pass, ask me again later.
— That’s not something I do.
- Be willing to be misunderstood. My dad used to say that to those who want to understand, no explanation’s needed. But to those who don’t want to understand, no explanation is good enough. Sometimes people will not like or understand your no. That’s why you always filter your yes/no through your calling. If you know God has not called you to say yes, then you can rest in your answer even if others never understand.
So remember, no matter what you have to say no or yes to today, you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you!
Learn More About the Take Courage Bible Study
- Get to know our guy Haggai as we study this prophet together in my newest Bible study, Take Courage: A Study of Haggai (LifeWay, July 2020). Watch the brand new video trailer and pre-order Take Courage here!
More Books and Bible Studies by Jennifer Rothschild
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What’s one way you’re learning to say no in a loving and compassionate way?