Every day there seems to be some sort of something that rears its ugly head and demands our attention. This ugly little monster is sometimes a person asking us for time which we simply do not have. Someone might need a ride somewhere, a project done sooner than anticipated, or just an ear to listen.
At times, we can do this. We can be that wonderful person that has the time to drive out of our way, put in some overtime at the office or sit down for coffee. But often there simply are not enough hours in the day.
Here is a hypothetical. You are on your way out the door to go to a yoga meet you’ve had on your mind for two weeks. You’re feeling energized and pumped. A brand new yoga mat is peeking out of your brand new yoga bag and oh, wait… what’s that? Your phone is ringing. It is your friend Shelly. She just broke up with her third boyfriend in six months and she wants to talk about what she could be doing wrong. Maybe it is Mike from the shop. He once again forgot how to do a proper brake inspection and he needs help.
Now, that little voice in your head says, I don’t have time. But there is that other voice, the bigger one that tells you that you will be a rotten friend if you decide to go ahead to your yoga class. It tells you that you are a bad person and that you should blow off something you’ve been looking forward to all week for something that, honestly, can wait. Shelly will be fine (three boyfriends in six months… really?). Mike, well, he’ll probably remember if he learns the hard way.
It is okay to tell that bigger voice to stuff it! Sometimes we need to be selfish. If we do not take care of ourselves we dwindle to nerves and resentment which leads to being unhealthy. Who wants that?
Here are some ways to tactfully say no without feeling guilty.
1) I would love to help you out, but I have a previous engagement. This engagement could be a legitimate meeting or it could simply be a date with a cup of tea and your favorite television program. If t.v. and tea is what you have been looking forward to after a busy day, you deserve to keep your date with yourself.
2) It is really out of my way and I’ll be cutting it close. Driving people places can, at times, be grueling. If you have somewhere you need to be, whether it is the gym or home, and you are going over in your head where to shave time so that your friend can make it to their destination, then you don’t have time. Instead of feeling guilty about saying no, be honest with yourself about the time you have.
3) I wish I could, but I have plans. Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. Maybe your idea of plans is at the other end of the spectrum compared to most. Maybe you actually do have to wash your hair. Clean hair is important after all. Telling someone you have plans is perfectly fine.
4) Unfortunately, I have to be somewhere. I use this one at work. It doesn’t happen often, but there are times I am asked to stay to finish a project. Sometimes I can and sometimes I can’t. When I can’t, I just say to my boss, “I would love to stay and finish, but I have somewhere I need to be. I’ll finish it first thing in the morning”. He always tells me that that’s fine. What is he going to say? I mean, I have to be somewhere a little more important than where I am now. Yes, work is important. However, at times there are things that are more pressing in my life than work.
5) I’m sorry, I just can’t. This is probably the most direct way to tell someone who you really cannot help out. A girl I work with at my second job says this to me when I ask her to cover and I so admire her honesty rather than giving me some long reason. If I ask her why she can’t then I am out of line. It is none of my business, just like it is no one’s business why you cannot help them out. It is our guilt for being selfish that leads us down the path of excuses. Stop it! You don’t need an excuse.
I hope some of these have helped you out. These are the most honest reasons I have heard over the last few years when I asked someone to help me out and they couldn’t. There was no arguing. How audacious I would be to question someone wanting to have some time of their own.