The familiar ding makes your head turn.

You know you should close your email when working but you can’t help it. Hopefully this email is the supplier information you’ve been waiting for. Or maybe the confirmation that your husband’s Christmas present has finally shipped. (Talk about cutting it close!)

No. It’s from you committee chairperson…again. This time she would like to know if you could you pick up some flyers from the printer and a few other supplies on your way to the committee meeting tonight? No big deal, she says. It’s on your way, right?

Just on your way…no big deal…

You grit your teeth. Besides your general displeasure at a meeting the week before Christmas you aren’t happy about giving away the sliver of YOU time you had cut out in your schedule today. Your plan was a quick workout, shower and snack before the committee meeting. If you add these errands (because there is ALWAYS a line after 5 pm at the printer) you’ll only have time to eat a protein bar in the car. Forget the much needed sweat therapy.

Before you email her back a terse OK, remember you have just as much right to say no as she does to ask you to help her out. She’s not trying to ruin your evening. She’s just trying to get things done like the rest of us. With that in mind, it won’t kill her or you if you say NO. When someone asks you to a last minute holiday party or to do just one more thing before you start your Christmas vacation know that saying NO is okay.

Learning how to say NO is a tough but rewarding skill. Here’s a three step plan to saying a kind and mindful NO instead of a YES you might regret.

  1. Take 10 seconds before you speak or type.

    While our first instinct is often the correct one, it can come with a bit of baggage. If we pause for ten seconds to breath and think about the request we can feel better about saying no (or yes if you are still so inclined) because we did it with awareness. In that moment of pause we can ask ourselves what we’re really feeling about the situation and are we acting in line with our priorities.

  2. Make “Let me get back to you” your default answer.

    It’s not saying yes but it’s not saying no either. If you need more than ten seconds to do a gut check and take a realistic look at your schedule, this line will buy you some time. With a few hours or even a night to think things over you might find that your neighbor’s ornament exchange is really what you needed. Or it may help you realize that you no one would miss you and that you’ll be happier at home snuggled in your pajamas with a good book.

  3. No…but can I (insert less taxing option here) instead.

    You may not have the time or patience to do what was asked but is there another way you can help? Instead of picking up flyers and supplies before a meeting can you stay after and help fold the flyers? Can you give a monetary donation to a cause you want to support instead of time? There is often more than one way to solve a problem or help someone who needs it. It doesn’t always have to be the task they choose to ask of you.

We’re all a little time crunched, especially this time of year. When someone asks for help of course you should listen and understand where he or she is coming from. That doesn’t mean your automatic response has to be YES. A mindful NO with kindness and compromise is a better experience for everyone.

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