Are you one of those people who can’t say no? You’ve joined every club, are an officer for half of them, you’ve gotten sponsors for every fund-raiser on campus and haven’t slept in two weeks because you’re so over-committed? Do you have a hard time refusing a good cause, or even a mediocre one? We know, we’ve been there. Just step away from the sign up sheet and cancel your guilt trip. You may not be able to find the words but we have. Fill in the blanks below and take our advice. Your GPA will thank you.
1) I Can’t but I Can: say no, but still say yes
“I can’t ____, but I can____.” As in, I can’t be president of the Cheerleaders for Children’s Charities Club, but I can organize the bottle and can drive.
2) I Can but I Can’t: say yes, with limits
“I can ____, but I can’t____.” As in, I can help you study for your algebra test, but I can’t do your French, Biology, and Music Theory homework or write your history paper.
3) Suggest an Alternate: or, steal somebody else’s hat and throw it into the ring
“I think ____ might be better suited to that.” As in, I don’t have any experience in making posters or flyers, but there is a graphic design major on my floor who might be interested. Or, I’d be happy to help with this translation but I don’t actually speak Russian; maybe instead you could ask one of the international students in the Eastern Europeans club.
“That’s not really my thing, but I could____.” As in, That’s not really my thing, but I could put it in my facebook status that you’re looking for someone to help you find homes for rescued racing tortoises, and see if any of my friends wants to help.
4) Excuses, Excuses!: just make one
• “I’m afraid that with my challenging course load, later in the semester I will be swamped and I don’t want to have to back out on you at the last minute.”
• “My plans for that time frame are kind of up in the air so I’m not sure I can be available. I might be going home that weekend.”
• “Sorry, but I’m really broke.”
• “I have to do laundry. I mean I really have to do laundry. You can smell my sock pile from down the hall.”
• “I’m really committed to your cause but I don’t think I have the resources you need.”
• “I promised myself/my boyfriend/my mother/my girlfriend/my roommate/my best friend I wouldn’t make any more new commitments until I finished knitting the socks I started for him six months ago.”
• “I promised myself/my boyfriend/my mother/my girlfriend/my roommate/my best friend I wouldn’t make any more new commitments until I can find time to catch up on her rhinoplasty blog.”
5) Flattery: aka Distraction
“I like being your friend and I know you are passionate about ______. I really admire that about you.” As in, Wow, I wish I were the kind of person who was so dedicated to oral hygiene for underprivileged children that they would give up every Saturday to train as a dental hygienist so they could volunteer to stick their fingers into the mouths of strange toddlers with no thought to the possibility of being accidentally or purposefully bitten while cleaning their teeth. But I’m just not. You are amazing!
“I know you’re really committed to this cause and I think that’s great.” As in, Boy are those tsunami victims lucky to have someone who is willing to learn origami and fold thousands of tiny pieces of decorative paper into itty bitty decorative animals and household objects and then sit at a table in the hot sun at a hippie festival selling them all weekend just to raise them some money for clean drinking water. You are amazing!
6) Using Technology to Your Advantage: or, the coward’s way out 😉
If you don’t trust yourself to face down Yolanda Youknowyouwanna face-to-face, just text her! E-mail her, send her a facebook message, call her cell when you know she’s in class and won’t answer so you can leave a voicemail. It’s much easier to stand your ground this way.
7) It’s Not Too Late!
Just because you already said yes doesn’t mean you can’t think better of it. Start with, “I know I said I would____, but” … and then see the last six suggestions. As in, I know I said I would help you make a YouTube video ranting about how your high school drama teacher wore a comb-over and then had the nerve to pass you up for the part of Alice in Wonderland just because you’re a flaming redhead—who’s he to talk about bad hair anyway?—but then I realized you are crazy and I just don’t want to! Wait no. I mean I can’t find time this week. But maybe the theater major down the hall?
I’m definitely one of those “yes” people… In college, the biggest thing that scared me about saying “no” was how I assumed people would react. I thought I would lose friends, get on the bad side of a club, or let somebody down. To me, saying “no” was admitting defeat… acknowledging that I couldn’t do it all.
Junior year, I got offered an executive editor position on our school newspaper. I was excited about the offer at first, but the more I thought about accepting, the more overwhelmed and anxious I became. I had a hefty course load, interned two days a week, and was involved in several other groups on campus. After some discernment, I turned it down in favor of remaining a section editor. There’s no way I would be able to stay in the office until 6am on production nights, go to class the next morning, and keep up with my work (and you know, things like eating and sleeping). I braced myself for the reaction, and was terrified of what would happen when I said no. In reality, it wasn’t that big of a deal. The editorial board understood and respected my decision, and my exaggerated ideas of getting kicked off of the newspaper or losing the respect of my coworkers couldn’t have been further from the truth.