How to Say No Graciously

By DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

Many of us are asked to volunteer our time and talents for worthwhile causes. Moments in our lives when we can reach out with joy to help others. We’re excited and pave a way through our busy lives to make sure the task is done well. Occasionally though, an opportunity is presented where we don’t feel we should invest our time. Yet we agree because we find it difficult to say no graciously. I wrestled with this challenge for years, and the effort to decline always took courage. If you’re like me, you want to please everyone.

Please don’t misinterpret my thoughts: a willingness to serve is a positive trait for all of us. Usually, we find an unexpected blessing ourselves. Unfortunately, too often we say yes because we feel it’s our Christian obligation to respond positively to all opportunities, but the art of saying no takes prayer, guts, planning, and determination.

The problem of always saying yes can affect us in ways that are harmful physically, mentally, and spiritually. Examples:

  1. Our priorities take a back seat to our volunteer commitment. We’re cranky, angry with ourselves, and filled with regret. We blame the person who requested our help when we could have refused the invitation.
  2. We sacrifice nutritionally sound meals, exercise, and much-needed sleep due to taking on a heavy load. As a result, our physical health suffers.
  3. Our mental health spirals downhill, which means a mix of negative feelings and a poor self-image. We can also become resentful of others and damage treasured relationships.
  4. We perform less than best in everything we attempt at home and outside the home.
How can we graciously decline without feeling stressed, guilty, or avoiding those who have solicited our help?

First, determine if the request is a ministry opportunity. This means going to God in prayer. If our faith-filled response from Him is to go forward, then we embrace the volunteer position and give it our best. But if we feel this isn’t a ministry project or one we’re supposed to participate, the following may help you share a gracious – no thank you.

  1. Thank you for thinking of me. I’m honored that you’d consider me for your event/activity. But my calendar is presently filled, and I simply can’t take on another responsibility.
  2. Thank you for the opportunity to assist in your plans. I’m currently involved with many projects and will need to decline. Feel free to contact me for future needs. (Only if the latter is true.)
  3. Thank you for taking the time to contact me. I know you’re busy searching for the right person to fill this need and completing your many obligations, but I need to say no.

Sometimes we need to say yes to what’s been asked of us, but sometimes we need to take a deep breath and graciously say no.

For a humorous take on this topic, check out this video.

How do you graciously say no?

DiAnn Mills




DiAnn’s Library Corner

Library Tip: Many people have problems establishing boundaries and how to handle uncomfortable social situations with family and friends. Perhaps your library can host a speaker to address those issues.


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