When Jacinda Ardern resigned suddenly in January as New Zealand prime minister, she had me cheering for so many reasons. Her exit seemed to be not motivated at all by ego (am I going to get rolled at the next election and should I jump now?) but by the fact she has a little girl she wants to see more of, a fiancé she wants to marry and a life away from politics that she wants to live.
“The only interesting angle that you will find is that after going on six years of some big challenges, I am human. Politicians are human,” said Jacinda. “We all give what we can for as long as we can, and then it’s time. And for me, it’s time.”
Inspiring. A great example of saying no so you can say yes.
Some of the boxes that Jacinda ticked that I admire and have spent decades coaching and counselling people on:
- Boundary setting
- Taking the path less travelled
- Honesty about The Juggle
- Relationships—unconventional may be right for you
Not everyone has the confidence and agency of a global politician. It’s not always easy to turn down opportunities and requests, especially when you feel you want to help others. Here’s my tips on how to learn to say no in a way that still lets you say yes to what’s important to you:
- Be clear and direct when saying no. Try not to use phrases that could be misinterpreted, like “I’ll see what I can do” or “I’ll try.” They give the impression you’re open to doing the task even if you don’t want to.
- Offer an alternative. If you have to say no to a request, accommodate it on your terms: No, I can’t take that project on this week but I’m available next week.
- Be confident. Believe in your decision and stand by it. This will help you stop feeling ashamed or guilty for saying no to saying yes.
- Practice self-care. This can be tough, especially if you’re a people pleaser. Remember what you are doing is putting yourself first. That’s commendable, even when it means disappointing others.
- Know that you can say no without explanation, but if it’s easier, have a line or two prepared that you feel comfortable with: “I appreciate the offer but I can’t make that happen just now.” “It’s just not something I’m interested in.” “I need time for myself.”
Saying no to saying yes is a great skill which helps you prioritise your own needs while still being helpful and considerate to others. Be inspired by Jacinda Ardern and her confidence and sense of self-worth by putting herself first on the world stage (can’t wait to see what she does next.)