Put on Your Big Boy Pants: Have that Tough Conversation NOW

road block

Road blocks to difficult conversations exist only in your head!

What’s stopping YOU from having the difficult conversation lurking in your head?  

Is it……?

Procrastination……Fear of rejection……Fear of anger……Embarrassment……Not knowing the way to say it……Fear of reprisal……Shoot the messenger fears……Your own discomfort…..You’re afraid you’ll be emotional……Your fear of their reaction–uh oh!……Not wanting to face the truth……You’re STILL waiting for the right moment……Your refuse to own your own your stuff..….Fear you might lose control……They should come to YOU…..Certainty that YOU’RE right……You are much too hurt……You don’t believe in talking about such things……You can’t admit you were wrong……You’re waiting for THEM to go first……You just don’t know where to begin……You tried already……You think, “Oh, it will all just blow over”……You don’t believe it will make a difference?

ostrich

Is this you?

Whatever the reason is (or reasons) for your delay, the end result is the same. Nothing and I mean NOTHING improves when you avoid an uncomfortable, difficult conversation regardless of all the excuses you make in your head.

According to J.D. Schramm in Harvard Business Review, “Often our fear of having the conversation with somebody about a sensitive subject can be worse than having the conversation itself. We put off bringing up a tough subject because we are waiting for the “perfect opportunity.”

But the uncomfortable truth, the truth we all know, is this:  there is no perfect opportunity. If we wait, the conversation will never happen.

We have to just put on our big boy pants and do it. WE need to make the first move regardless of who spoke last, or who we think is wrong, or exactly what happened, or who we think SHOULD reach out first. We need to take a breath and begin.

go sign

Follow these tips to help you get started on that difficult conversation you’re avoiding:

  1. Write out your thoughts – If time allows, write. Write how you think you’d say it, without the anger and without the judgment. Consider it brainstorming. You’ll find both things not- to-say, and things very well said. Use your writing as a guide.
  2. Make a commitment.  If you’ve been procrastinating, set a time frame. Say to yourself (or even better, to someone who will hold you accountable) I’ll have this conversation by tomorrow, two days from now, a week from now. Just set a date that is close enough to break through your procrastination.
  3. Come up with a few good openers. Make sure you have one or two good opening lines to start off the conversation. Rule of thumb is:  be real, express yourself honestly (even if you have to say you are somewhat nervous), and be direct. Get right to what you want to talk about. No beating around the bush.
  4. Keep it private. If the topic is stressful enough to qualify as a tough conversation to you, regardless of what anyone else thinks, then privacy is a must. Never begin one of these talks in earshot of others, unless they, too, are part of the conversation.
  5. Tolerate imperfection. These talks are challenging. That means they often won’t be perfect. With that in mind, congratulate yourself for facing the issue instead of judging yourself for not saying it perfectly.  Even an average job of a difficult conversation IS an accomplishment.

None of us can avoid difficult conversations in life. They are a part of life. Unless you are a hermit, you might as well begin to develop this skill now.

Instead of avoiding the conversation, you’ll avoid the drama that unexpressed issues create. Problems, misunderstanding and disagreements not brought to light, create relationship issues and ongoing stress. As Kevin O’Leary (also known as “Mr. Wonderful” from The Shark Tank), would say, “Stop the madness.” Have the conversation and the sooner you do, the easier it will be.

Don’t String Me Along

maybe notJust say “no!”

Call it a pet peeve, but it drives me crazy when people respond to my request with a “maybe” when clearly, they want to say “no.” Don’t get my hopes up with a “maybe.”

Saying maybe only delays the discomfort temporarily. Eventually, they will still have to say “no.” The delay of the inevitable, the avoidance, the bs answer only makes it more difficult.

Everyone asking for help, extending an invite or making a request is well aware they may be turned down. And though none of us like that rejection, it does go with the territory.  We don’t get everything we ask for.

The inability to decline a request only complicates things. Being turned down is acceptable. Maybe not our preference, but certainly acceptable and manageable.

Being told “Maybe…maybe I’ll make it. Maybe I can do that for you. Maybe I’ll be there” when it’s obvious that won’t happen is frustrating. It keeps us hopeful. It keeps us waiting and thinking our invite might actually be accepted.

Eventually we have to step up and take personal responsibility.  We need to communicate directly and use common courtesy. The other person is waiting on our response, planning around our possible “yes.” Often in their minds, it’s as if we already said “yes.”

When we are asked to attend a meeting or help with a project or offer support that we either cannot or do not want to do, we have to say so. Preferably right then and there. On the spot.

If you know the moment you’re asked for help that you aren’t available (or interested), say it. Say “no” in whatever form suits the situation. Whether it’s a family member, a neighbor, a close friend or a colleague, your response can be the same.

The way to say it should sound something like:

  • “No thank you, I’m not going to be able to help with that.”
  • “No, I’m sorry. It’s not possible this time.”
  • “No, I wish I could help but I’m already committed.”
  • “No, thanks for asking but I’m overwhelmed with commitments at the moment.”
  • “No. I appreciate the offer but that’s just not my thing.”
  • “No, I’m not going to be able to help you out.”
  • “Sorry to disappoint you, but I can’t make it.”
  • “Thanks for thinking of me but I won’t be able to join you.”
  • “You know, I appreciate the invite, but I’ve done that and it’s just not for me.”

Guidelines for turning down a request look like this:

1.     Don’t hesitate.
2.     Keep it short.
3.     Don’t explain.vote maybe
4.     Leave no doubt.
5.     Be courteous.

Essentially, keep it simple. Tell the truth and be sure you were understood.

Don’t say “maybe” when you mean “no.” You’ll save time. Avoid prolonged discomfort. Eliminate their wondering and no longer be chased for your answer. No one likes to be strung along. No one wants to wait and wonder. Without answers, it’s difficult to plan.

Next time someone in your life makes a request, asks a favor, or shares an invite, give your honest answer. Say it clearly, courteously and with grace, but say it.

Reduce Drama with Six Boundary-Setting Statements

draw line in the sand

Boundaries are lines in the sand. Verbal ones that we draw by telling other people how to treat us or what we find acceptable or even what behaviors we’ll tolerate.

But if we neglect to open our mouths, to speak up, to state our preferences, then others just assume anything goes. They have no reason to think otherwise.

Without meaning to, the absence of boundaries says, “Eh…it doesn’t matter. I have no limits. It’s all good! Whatever YOU decide about how to treat me is fine with me.”

Now, I get you aren’t actually SAYING those words, but saying NOTHING creates that affect.

Can you see where I’m going with this? Once again it comes back to speaking up. It comes back to the way to say it . I get that it isn’t easy to be direct and assertive, but mind-reading is not an effective alternative.

Nor is assuming others know what we want. Or assuming that they want the same things we do.

What if you had some go-to phrases to whip out when you need to stop someone in their tracks? Before it’s too late! Before there’s tension and resentment.

Stopping someone before they cross a line or before they assume they know what you want is much easier than backtracking and having a clean-up conversation.

what to say

Here are a few of my go-to boundary setters:

“Before we get too far, can you tell me what your plans are for this project?”

“You know, it doesn’t seem my feelings are being taken into account. Let’s talk about this before things progress any further?”

“It’s really important to me that ____________ (fill in the blank). Are we on the same page with that?”

“I certainly respect your needs. I’d like to talk about this to make sure my needs are being met too.”

“I tend to be direct to avoid problems down the road. Let’s compare plans and make sure we’re in agreement.”

“This isn’t really what I had in mind. Can you tell me what you’re thinking so I can be sure we agree?”

 

One of the real pros about saying things upfront is this:  you avoid future drama! Pre-empting is a great strategy.

Here’s why. Speaking up before there’s tension may be uncomfortable. But it won’t be anything worse than that…a bit uncomfortable…because nothing bad has happened yet.

When we speak up in advance, everyone is still on neutral ground. There’s no tone or  negativity or resentment. Not yet. Because all we’re doing is inquiring or checking in to make sure those involved in the issue or project are seeing things, planning things, taking action with the same point of view.

The stress, tension and resentment avoided this way is huge. All that’s needed is to develop a habit of saying to yourself in the moment, “I had better check now. I had better ask now. It will be so much easier to just ask now and avoid the possibility of drama and conflict later.”drama free black bakcground

Wanna reduce the drama in your life, your office? Start here with boundaries.  Set them BEFORE things go sideways. We’ll talk another day about boundary setting AFTER the fact in the midst of tension and drama.

As my neighbor says to her three and six-year old boys, “Use your words.” I can’t think of better advice to share.

What are “your words” for boundary setting?  I’d love to hear how you set boundaries at the office or home. Can’t have too many good responses to avoid drama!

Ten Questions to Stop a Complaining Employee

Day at the office started off well enough, until your employee started in again complaining about his coworker.  Not only is it getting old, it is wasting valuable time and distracting your employee from his work.

He is focused on the co-worker, not his own stuff.  What SHOULD be different. What isn’t right or fair or logical.  Wah. Wah. Wah. He can see only what should be, rather than what is.

stop whining and find something to do

Assuming, for your own reasons, the co-worker is valuable and isn’t going anywhere, this issues needs addressing.

Here are some great questions to help your employee change his perspective:

1.  “What makes you certain your way is right? Can you step back and accept that others have “their” way?”

2.   “Are you willing to help your co-worker out to get on the same page?”

3.   “What can YOU do differently to shift this situation? Or to shift your feelings about it?”

4.   “What would happen if you simply ignored all of this?”

5.   “How might you be contributing to this situation?”

6.   “What is the cost to you of focusing on them rather than yourself?”

7.   “Imagine being able to just let it go. What would that be like for you? How would things be different for you? “

8.   “Instead of focusing on what they are doing wrong, are you willing to spend the next week looking for what they do right?  What their contribution is? Their value?”

9.  “In the big scheme of things, is this all that important?”

10.  “What humor or insight can you find in this?”

Frequently some of the best “workers” are the most vocal about others whose output or system doesn’t match their own.  Most likely BOTH employees are valuable or I’m assuming you would have made a staffing change, right?

Use these questions (not all at once, simply pick and choose a few to begin) to coach your distraught employee into seeing things differently.  Keep in mind, your employee must feel valued by you for these questions to be well received.  As always with “the way to say it”, your delivery and tone are as important, if not more important, than the words you choose.

By creating a simple shift in your employee’s perspective, you can alleviate the friction and redirect him back to his own work, plus get some peace of mind yourself.

Tell me…how have you successfully, or even not so successfully, handled these situations in the past? Love to hear your comments and ideas. [contact-form][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

 P.S. Your complaining employee could be a “he” or a “she.”

 

Can’t Say “No?”

n n n nI have a serious question. How can we expect children to say “no” when we as adults struggle to say it ourselves?

We see it everywhere. Parents caving in to their children’s wishes, even after they already said “no.” It might be a request to buy something or to get an ice cream before dinner or to go to a friend’s house. It’s just easier to give in than to turn down a child’s request because deep down most parents want their children to be happy, protected from life’s disappointments.

But here is the dilemma. How can children be prepared to say “no” to peer pressure, to difficult choices, and to experimentation, when what they see all around them are adults who cave into pressure, insistence, wining and their own need to be liked.

I grew up in a time when parents frequently said, “Do as I say, not as I do.” We all know that approach doesn’t work because children copy what is modeled for them. Especially when we tell them not to.

If the majority of the time children observe adults unable to say no……to little requests…to family members who take advantage, to a neighbor who always needs help,  to a committee asking for more volunteer time, then how in hell can those kids learn to say “no” for themselves? How can kids learn to be strong and resist peer pressure? How can they learn to honor their bodies, their time, and their feelings,….. if instead they see it’s easier to just give in?

Children repeat what they see, becoming “people-pleasers” and saying yes to fit in, to be liked, and to be popular. How can we blame them?  They are simply modeling what they saw.

That’s a scary thought.

That two-letter word some adults just can’t seem to spit out just creates children who will struggle with “no” as well.

Children face lots of tests in school, on the playground, with friends and on social media. To safely navigate their way through these challenges, they must be comfortable with the word no. It must be a normal part of life and part of their vocabulary.  We want children to say no to peer pressure, to drugs, to breaking rules, to activities that might put their well-being at risk, to being inappropriately touched.girl hand no

To do so, they must be empowered to stand up for themselves. But they won’t be as long as they don’t see, experience and observe that behavior. Learning to say “no” comes directly from hearing “no” as an answer ourselves.

Are you good at saying “no” when appropriate?

Do you turn down invites you don’t want to attend?

Do you say no to unreasonable requests?

Do you say no when it makes you unpopular?

Do you say no when it disappoints someone?

Whatever struggles you have saying no will show up in your kids.

It’s never too late to begin using this powerful two-letter word.

Children need to develop a strong sense of self, confidence, and comfort with the word “no” so that when the time comes, that little word will roll right off their lips.

Stay tuned for more on this two-letter word and how to get comfortable with it in upcoming blogs.

The Right Words to Turn Down a Reference Request

testimonials2

Just because you have been asked to provide a reference or testimonial,
doesn’t mean you are obligated.

Recently I’ve gotten numerous requests for testimonials and references.  Providing references is a great way to support those in our network. But suppose the reference request is from someone we hardly know? Or from an individual we never worked with, never purchased from?  What’s the right call then?

The answer is simple.

We tell them the truth.

We tell them we are not in a position to give what they are asking.

We remind them we have not worked together, or not worked together in years, so offering a testimonial feels out of sync.

We tell them we don’t know them well enough to speak to their strengths with confidence.

We wish them well.

It’s perfectly acceptable to not provide the reference. Opting out of such a request is always an option. The challenge is doing it honestly. Wording it well. Finding the way to say it.

Of course, saying “no” to a reference request might be slightly uncomfortable. Saying “no” usually is.  But it’s better than writing a testimonial we don’t feel comfortable giving.  To film a video testimonial, or write a letter of recommendation, or provide a verbal job reference that we can’t honestly stand behind, compromises our integrity.

And I am never never “for” that.  Saying yes when we want to say no is a people-pleasing act.  Helping is great. Supporting others is gracious, but doing so when it conflicts with our own feelings is a bad choice.

The question becomes how do we say “no” to a reference request?

 We start by:reference

 * Being truthful and genuine
* Saying it courteously and with kindness
*  Keeping  it simple, keeping it short
* Valuing our own integrity
* Not being overly apologetic  (Once will do)

 

As to the way to say it, here are some one line responses to graciously turn down a request for any kind of reference:

“You know, it’s been so long since we worked together that I can’t comfortably write you a reference.”

“Should we successfully work together in the future, I would gladly consider providing you with a reference then.  I’m sorry but till then, it’s premature.”

“I’m honored that you asked for my reference. Please know that I only provide references when I can really attest to someone’s work. I just don’t know you well enough.”

“I’m not in a position to really speak comfortably about your skills and attributes.”

“I wish I could help you out, but our working relationship is too new.”

“I’d love to see you get the job, but I won’t be able to help you with a job reference since I don’t know you in that capacity.”

These are just a few simple, honest ways to say “no” without offending the requester or looking unsupportive yourself.  You can always follow these statements with softeners like, “I’m sorry I can’t help you” or “I’m sure you understand” or even “I wish I knew you more. It’s just too soon.”

Occasionally someone will ask you to provide a testimonial anyway. Just remember, should they become pushy, it will be even more important for you to maintain your professionalism and obviously, NOT write the reference.

just say noIf you want to maintain the value of your opinion, your word, and your integrity, make it a personal rule:

Only give references for those people you feel certain about backing,

whether it’s for their skills, their character or their abilities.

Your references will carry so much more weight and substance when you do write them.

The Way to Say It Tips: Telling Your Guests “It’s Time to Go”

empty wine glass end of partyIs there really an acceptable way, a polite and appropriate way to let guests know it’s time to go?  I mean, no one wants to be rude to friends and visitors. It’s not as if we didn’t enjoy them or didn’t want them to visit in the first place. Even so on occasion, we want our guests to go home.

Maybe  our schedule the next day begins early.  Maybe we’ve been running too fast and are just exhausted. Or maybe we tend to be early-to-bed people and are ready to call it quits.

Can we say express that? What do you think? Have you ever suggested gracefully, or even awkwardly for that matter, to your guests that the night is over?

In situations like these most of us watch the clock. We say nothing. Some of us dance around and drop small hints, hoping our guests will get it. Sometimes we go so far as to begin the cleaning up as a signal it’s time.

Most of us don’t know what to do. We just wait. Few people actually tell the truth.

Let’s start with one of the easier, more clear-cut situations to see what we might actually say.

When Illness Is Involved:  

At the moment a dear friend of mine is home recovering from a serious, life-threatening infection.  Everyone in her circle wants to help and stop in to wish her well.  That support is a huge part of recovery, but it can also be a bit much. For her, some boundary-setting requests would help her preserve her limited energy and let guests know “it’s time to go.”

Here are some of “the ways to say it” that I recommend:

 “I’m so appreciative of your coming by to see me. Now unless I want my doctor, and my husband to yell at me, I have to get some rest. I hope you will visit again .”

“This has been such a gift having you visit.  It really makes me feel great. Unfortunately, if I don’t keep my visits short, I really pay for it the next day. I get so tired!  I’m planning on heading to bed in about 15 minutes.”

 “You know, I hate for you to leave, but if I don’t get lots of naps and rests each day, it really wears me out. I hope you understand I need to cut our visit short now. It’s time for me to rest.”

 “Oh, this has been a great visit. Now, if I am to get well I’m going to have to boot you guys out and go take a rest. Hope you understand! Thanks.” 

 Another skilled way to handle these communication challenges is before the fact. Instead of having an awkward moment trying to bring the visit to a close, set your time limits up front. When guests arrive, thank them and give them a head’s up of how long your visit can last.  Say something like:

“Oh it’s great to see you. I love visits but they do drain me so can we plan on about a ____ long visit?”

Or a bit stronger,

 “Thanks for coming to see me. Let me give you a head’s up….I turn into a pumpkin after about an hour and just completely run out of energy. Let’s keep our visit within that time frame.”

 Most people would agree sickness is a justifiable reason to limit our guests.  That doesn’t mean we must have such a dramatic reason to set boundaries on our time. The question remains, what about other situations?

boundary

When It’s a Normal Get Together:

 Here are some ideas to try out in your personal life:

  1. Communicate in Advance:  If you know you have friends who tend to stay long, or an early commitment, or some reason you need to limit your time together, communicate that up front. We have great friends who told us they wake at 4:30 most mornings and are in bed early.  This helps us respect their preferences. We tend to meet early and depart early as a result. No awkward moments.
  2.  Make Your Invite Specific:  When you are a host you get to call the shots.  When inviting, communicate clearly a beginning time and an ending time! There’s much less chance of needing to say anything more.
  3. Work Your Needs into the Conversation:  At some time in the visit, talk about your early commitment the next day and what time you need to be up. Or share how little sleep you have gotten and that you plan on an early night tonight. Whatever your need is, find a casual comfortable way to share it over the course of the night long before it’s actually time to leave.
  4. Be Open, Be Yourself:  Develop friendships that allow you to be yourself, that support honest communication. Get in the habit of using a casual, kidding, light tone of voice to share your preferences and habits. The more your friends know you, the more they will respect your needs and preferences, as well as express their own.

Taking these steps and having these kinds of conversations will take some practice. It won’t necessarily be smooth and easy the first few times. But we can work up to the more difficult conversations and start small.

My commitment is to honest, open conversations, even when it’s difficult. That may not be your choice. It’s really a personal decision each of us make. Just know if you don’t choose to communicate  your boundaries and limits on your time and get-together, you will occasionally have some friends who overstay their welcome. And given that you won’t have stated your needs, you’ll be part of the problem. Why not try speaking up instead?

The Two-Letter Word That’s Killing You

Just say it!

Just say it!

 

Repeat after me, “I wish I could, but I just can’t right now. No thank you.” Now say, “Thanks for the invite. I’m going to have to pass.” Take a breath, and now out loud, ““I would love to help you, but right now I just can’t.” Or even a simple, direct, “Sorry, can’t make it. I have a conflict.”

Now that wasn’t so bad, was it? It’s that simple–acceptable ways to say no. Say it. Say “no.” In fact for an entire day, no make that and entire week, walk around saying,

  •  “No, I’m sorry. I can’t make it.”
  •  “No, thanks. I’m busy.”
  •  “No, actually that’s not a good time for me.”
  •  “No, I would prefer you don’t do that.”

Practice. Practice. Practice because half of the battle is just getting used to saying it. And it does get easier with time.

Saying "no" with grace is a learned skill.

Saying “no” with grace is a learned skill.

Saying “no” doesn’t equate to anger. Saying “no” won’t kill you. And, even more important, the less often you are saying no, the more likely it is that you should be. It’s about boundaries. If we never say “no” then friends, kids, spouses, families, bosses, essentially everyone in our circle learns to keep asking us. We’re an easy mark. We give in. We agree. We cave in to do things we don’t really want to do. We say yes when we mean no.

Our inability to say “no” costs us and it costs us dearly energetically and emotionally. Over time, any choices we make that are not in alignment with what our intuition or our heart wants, take their toll on our health. Not saying what is true for us affects how we feel about ourselves. It diminishes our confidence and sense of self-worth.

Generally women struggle with this habit more than men. Even so, we all could use some practice in honestly saying no when that’s what we feel, instead of losing ourselves in people-pleasing.  Though none of us like to think of ourselves as people-pleasers, that is what we are when we do what others want instead of speaking our truth.

Striving to be kind and generous is a good thing. Being kind is about the other person. About generosity. About giving.  People pleasing— well,  not so much. People-pleasing is about YOU. It’s about your need to be liked.  If you never utter the word “no”, it stems from a desire to not disappoint others or hurt them or just tell them the  God’s honest truth for fear of disapproval. Instead you choose to abandon your wants and needs and blurt out “yes,” when deep down you’re screaming “no” silently. It’s “no” that you want to say.

I think we can agree that it IS hard to hear “no” to one of our own requests. But wouldn’t life be oh so much easier if we told each other the truth? If we kindly, yet honestly. said what we want and what we don’t.  Personally, I would always rather hear the truth even when it’s hard. Even when it is not w hat I had in mind. I just hope the truth will be told to me directly and kindly.

Granted, sometimes it takes me a few minutes of processing to get comfortable with the rejection to my request. Still I prefer it to being lied to or to having to deal with passive aggressive resentment that I can feel.

This week promise yourself you’ll spout out a solid “no” to at least one request made of you each day.  Tell me how it goes. Saying “no” is a learned skill and you just might come to like it!

 

 

 

What Your Lack of Response Tells Others

ostrichMost of us think saying nothing is an acceptable and easy response to challenging situations. The ole ostrich-in-the-sand approach.  We hide out. We avoid, ignore and figure in time it will all go away. At the very least the other party will forget about things.

After doing personal coaching for 13 years, it’s clear to me this is not the case. No response, does not equal no problem. The issue doesn’t’ go away just because we aren’t facing it. In fact, more often than not, ignoring the issue leads to other problems.

We may THINK to ourselves, “I’m not saying anything. That will be safe.” But our silence communicates volumes anyway. It leaves things open to the interpretation of others, and, without our input. They decide on their own what our lack of response means. The meaning they give it is rarely what we intend.

Here are some of the conclusions that are often drawn by our silence:

  1. “You don’t care.”  –  If you did care, you would speak up and express your feelings.  Or at the least you would deal with the situation. Most of us interpret silence as indifference.
  2. “I’m not important.”  –   Someone waiting to hear your response might conclude, “I’m not important to you.” After all, in the midst of a misunderstanding or conflict, it would seem if I were important, you would do or say something.
  3. “Things are fine the way they are.” –  Sometimes when no response comes, we decide it means things are fine as is. Nothing needs to be done.
  4. “Do what you want.”  –  This is a convenient conclusion to draw. It allows us to do exactly what we want. After all, we haven’t heard from the other party (you), so obviously it doesn’t matter.  Without your input, we are free to decide what to do next. And considering there is a conflict, we love giving ourselves permission to do what we want.
  5. “It’s over.” –  Depending on the actual situation, sometimes we interpret silence to mean the relationship, friendship, or connection is over. That conclusion sets an entirely new set of circumstances in motion.
  6. “You don’t want to talk to me (or about it).” –  In either case, drawing this conclusion makes the other party completely reluctant to initiate a conversation. The gap widens. The silence continues.

Just because nothing is said, doesn’t mean no conclusions are drawn. Silence in the midst of an issue, argument, misunderstanding or crucial conversation only leads to more resentment and a greater distance to bridge for resolution.

breaking the silence

Are you an avoider? In the midst of a difficult conversation do you simply shut down and stop talking? Do you leave an issue hanging, never sharing your thoughts and questions? If so, remind yourself others will draw their own conclusions and most likely they will not be what you intend.

Want to resolve the issue? Want to affect the outcome? Speak up using The Way to Say It and allow yourself and the other party to talk it through and move on, whether that moving on means resolution, understanding, or just letting go. In any case, the wondering ends and there is clarity.

Want to learn more possibilities about what your silence is saying? Check out these links:  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithwalkers/2013/02/silence-speaks-what-you-say-when-you-say-nothing-at-all/

http://silenttreatmentblog.com/

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How to Make Turning Down An Invitation Simple and Painless

An honest "no" to an invitation is better than a resentful, drag-your-feet "yes."

An honest “No” to an invitation is better than a resentful, drag-your-feet “yes.”

In my old life, I accepted invitations. All of them. Even to gatherings I didn’t really want to attend. I felt compelled to say “yes”. The result was I ended up going places and being in situations I didn’t enjoy. Why didn’t I just say “no”?  No is a small word, but it holds so much power.

After years of coaching clients around the country, it’s clear saying “no” presents more of a challenge for women than for men. Women worry about hurt feelings, about not being liked, and in the process, they completely discount their own needs and feelings. Like I did, they say yes when they want to say no. It’s a lot less painful and time-consuming to just learn to graciously turn down invitations. After all, it is a normal part of life. We just need to learn the way to say it with honesty, in a short clear message, and with an element of grace for ourselves and others.

Honesty Pays   Usually, our first thought is to make an excuse or use a reason that isn’t the real reason for not attending. Nope! Wrong answer. In the end, this tactic always backfires.

A few years ago a friend of my husband’s cancelled a lunch at the last minute. His friend cited too much work as his reason. My good-natured husband gave the cancellation little thought. Instead he headed to Home Depot for his lunch hour to do some errands. Having forgotten about the cancellation, my husband finished his shopping and approached the checkout counter. There at the counter was the friend who cancelled lunch! Not only was he not at the office working, (the excuse he used) but he was shopping with his wife and son. Oops! Totally busted.

A truthful reason to cancel would have been so much better. No matter how tempted you are, DON’T offer an untruth as your reason for cancelling or turning down an invite. There is always a risk of being caught red-handed, or blowing your own cover in a future conversation when you forget the reason you gave.

Less is Best   You’ll be tempted to explain yourself and rationalize (out loud) why you can’t accept this invitation. Don’t do it.  It’s fine to want to minimize bad feelings.  But, that  doesn’t mean you need an entire life story justifying your reason for turning down the invite. You know the ones. The responses that are simply TMI (too much information) either because the explanation is too personal, or because it  provides way too much detail.  It’s just not necessary.

That doesn’t mean that a one-word response of “no” is acceptable either. The ideal response is a short clear message saying you cannot attend with little or no explanation. Detail is unnecessary.

It might sound like this:

 “Thanks so much for the invitation to your networking event. I’ve got a conflict at that time and won’t be able to make it.”

At most you might add:

“I’m sorry” or a “maybe next time, ”  that is assuming you would like to be invited again.

Remember Grace and Gratitude   It’s important to be grateful for the gracious intent of the person who invited us. Turning down an invite with grace is about expressing that gratitude.  If this is not your type of invite, or this person, is not someone you want to hang out with, be prepared. Thank them for the invite and clearly state that though you appreciate the invite, it’s not of interest to you. A response like, “I so appreciate your offer to join you. This particular event is not of interest to me. Maybe we could meet for another type of occasion.”  Most of us can deal with that level of honesty, as long as the message is delivered sincerely.

Skip the Guilt  Spare them your guilt.  First of all, it is a waste of your time and energy to feel guilty.  You want to turn down an invite and that is your prerogative.  However, when you do say “no”, the object is to keep the person who invited you feeling good, in spite of the fact that you declined. Dumping your guilt for not accepting the invite forces them to support you, and THAT’S backwards! It’s not about you!

While I’m ranting, LADIES, please, set a limit to your apologies. In most situations, one is sufficient. At most, you might apologize a second time at the end of your conversation. More than that and you are simply overdoing it. Declining an invite is not the end of the world. Thank them. Express your regrets once, twice at most, and move on. Leave them feeling appreciated and clear. End of story.

With just a little practice, you’ll find this approach much easier than the multiple excuse, multiple apology, long-winded explanation or the open-ended “maybe” that leaves everyone hanging.

It’s taken me years, but I no longer say “yes” to invites I don’t want. Learn from my mistakes and save yourself hours of time at unwanted events.  Say “yes” only when you mean it. You’ll enjoy outings more and no doubt, will have more time to spend as you wish.

Next time you get an unwanted invitation, before “yes” slips out of your mouth, try these five steps:

  1. Take a breath, thinking before speaking. 
  2. Promise to be honest
  3. Keep your response and explanation short
  4. Express your gratitude for the invite
  5. Keep your guilt to yourself

Then tell me your story. I would be interested to hear your experiences, feelings and outcomes.