Saying “No” Is Vital To Honesty

One morning, while eating breakfast, my children asked if they could play outside. It was a nice day, so I agreed to take them out later. Lunch came and went, then I decided to finish the laundry, then the kitchen needed cleaning, and then I realized it was supper time. I had continued to put off my promise until it was too late. When I realized what I had done, the thoughts began. How could I do that! I made a promise, why didn’t I follow through? What kind of mother am I?

That morning I hadn’t thought “today I am going to fail my children”, but to be fair I also hadn’t thought, “this is the most important thing in my day”. How do we solve this problem of making commitments, to ourselves and others, and then not following through with them? Here are three ideas: be clear with our priorities, be specific with the details (when, where, etc), and let people know as plans change.

It’s easy to be overly optimistic about what we think we can do in a day. But we don’t have to do it all and we shouldn’t try. Instead we need to decide which things are truly important. The rest can be left undone—they aren’t our biggest priorities. Being honest with ourselves about what we can realistically do is the first step.

The next step is to be specific with the details (when, where, etc). When we say yes to something without a plan it’s likely to turn into a failed commitment. Plan out the logistics: when will we do it, how long will it take, etc. This is the difference between “I can do this” vs “I will do this”. By planning things out we are more likely to know if we really have the time and if we really want to do it.

The last step is to keep people updated as soon as plans change. Other people are relying on us to fulfill our commitments; we are relying on us to fulfill our commitments. As soon as there is a delay or a change of plans, we need to be communicating those changes to everyone involved. This shows respect and will help reduce confusion and hurt feelings. How often do we think, “oh, I still have time”, or “I can just do this at the same time as something else”. If we can be upfront with ourselves, and others, it gives us all an opportunity to re-evaluate priorities and truly decide which things we should be cutting and which things are of the most importance.

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Being clear about what we can and can’t accomplish in a day allows others to be able to depend on us and, just as importantly, allows us to feel good about ourselves. Developing the discipline to say no is an important skill, because we can’t do it all, no matter how much we wish we could. We need to choose what’s most important in our lives, and stop worrying about the rest.

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The purpose of “The Couple Project” is to learn more about what makes a strong marriage or relationship. We share what we are learning, which ideas we are trying, and which ideas helped improve our relationship. We realize not everything that works for us will work for you, but we still hope you will find our journey valuable.

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