Yes, but not now.
Why not now? What's in your way? Or are you actually saying no?
Ever get tripped up when responding to the question, "Can you ___?"
My advice is to answer with a clear yes, no, or maybe followed by a brief explanation. Focus on keeping it brief. If someone would like additional information they'll ask. Most often they simply want the answer to the question.
Be careful with maybe. If you know the answer is no, say no. No need to prolong or complicate the exchange. Here's a recent example:
In a non-profit board meeting, the board chair looks at me and asks, "Dawn, would you be willing to co-chair the event again this year?"
"No," I replied. "But thanks for asking."
Immediate closure. I smiled, others smiled, and the meeting hardly missed a beat.
Other times a question catches you off guard. The out-of-the-blue-I-had-no-clue-this-was-coming sort of question. I tend to respond immediately with, "Wow. I'm flattered that you asked. I don't know the answer. Let me think through this and get back to you."
I’m never going to be a stand-up comedian. My processor is simply too slow! I acknowledge it now and let myself take the time I need to think things through.
Only ask for more time if you will truly use it. Don't say maybe because you're chickening out in the moment and are sure you’ll say no later. This causes consternation for you and the other person. Your gut often knows instantly...trust it. Say what it’s telling you. And move on.
I argue that an immediate no is better than an premature yes. Why? If you default to no you respect the other person's time and recognize their need to find someone else. And you can also reconsider and circle back to learn more and see if the opportunity is still available. The worst that can happen is it's not avaialable. You missed out because you answered no too soon. You'll survive. And you respected the other person and didn’t make a promise you can't keep.
Saying no is so much better for your soul than saying yes and not being able to fulfill your commitment. If you don't fill a few commitments in a row you might start to believe you're unreliable. Stop. Woe is me is not for you.
Figure out what happened and learn from it. Did you say yes and over commit yourself? Not ask enough questions to realize what you were getting yourself into? Not really want to do it? Own it. Then pivot.
Of course unforeseen circumstances happen. Confront the reality as soon as you know about it. And keep your focus on the hardship this is creating for the other person. Never apologize and then immediately turn the focus back to yourself saying something like, "I’m just so busy doing x, y ,z, a, b." This is not about you. It's about you letting someone else down and owning it. It's about life being in the way of you following through on your word. The other person should be the focus of this conversation. Because of your situation (which is very real and unanticipated) they now carry a heavier load.
Last year I had signed up to volunteer for vacation bible camp (vbc) at our church. About five weeks before vbc a friend asked if I’d like to work with her on a project. It was an incredible opportunity. And the client was having a workshop the week of vbc and it was important I attended. Oh dear.
I had new circumstances. And a choice. I called the vbc coordinator immediately and apologized and told her that I needed to rescind my volunteer offer. She asked why and I shared that a new client needed me that week. I swallowed hard and then paused.
And…guess what!? She was happy for me! What in the world? I’m letting her down and she’s happy for me and congratulates me on the new client? Face the fear. Do it now. And life might throw you a pleasant surprise.
You’re not going to be able to keep all of your commitments. Stuff happens. But keep these to a minimum by not committing to stuff you don’t want to do. No is an easy word. And no thank you is even better.
This blog was inspired by a recent exchange with my son. He asked, “Mom, can you play with me?”
I said, “Yes, but not now.” As soon as the words came out of my mouth they ricocheted and hit me like a brick. Why not now? I changed my answer.
“Actually, no. Nevermind what I just said. Yes, I’d love to play with you right now. What should we play?”