Have you been overcommitting because you're afraid that you'll disappoint people or hurt their feelings? Don't panic if your answer is yes. Most people--unless they were born on Mars--experience this problem.

Reflect on the past few months. How many times did you find yourself saying yes and then regretting it later? It happens to all of us non-Mars creatures. The good news is that you can take control of it. It's OK to say "no" and you can say it with style and diplomacy.

In the words of Warren Buffett, "You’ve gotta keep control of your time, and you can’t unless you say no. You can’t let people set your agenda in life."

Keep in mind that learning to say to no is a skill that takes time, effort, and practice to develop. You have legitimate reasons to say no to things and to people, particularly when it requires you to do something that's unreasonable, inconsiderate, or inconvenient--or that takes you away from your own priorities and goals in life.

Here are some examples of why we have difficulty saying no:

  • We feel saying no would be rude
  • We need to repay someone a favor--there's pressure
  • We think that it won't take much of our time
  • We believe that it is our responsibility or obligation
  • We are afraid that people won't like us anymore
  • We feel guilty about it
  • We fear being rejected and losing friends

There's no magic formula or rule to follow to saying no. It's a personal choice. "Yes" and "No" are essential to the cycle of life. By saying "no" to some things and to people, we can say "yes" to our top priorities in life, and one of them is our health and wellbeing.

Here are some examples about how to approach saying no:

  • Consider the request, don't interrupt
  • Think before giving your response
  • Be honest and don't resort to a long list of excuses
  • Keep things simple and clear, don't over-explain
  • Be polite and respectful
  • Use a cordial tone of voice
  • Avoid saying "I am not sure" and "I don't know"

To regain control and balance, we need to say "yes" to life and "no" to the madness of overcommitting. The word "no" has a lot of power and it's tremendously beneficial for us when we use it appropriately.

Here are some examples of how say no with style and diplomacy:

  • I can't commit to this as I have other priorities at this time.
  • I am in the middle of doing something and now is not a good time for me.
  • I feel I am not the right person to help you on this. Have you thought of Joe or Susan?
  • I have a long-term commitment that I cannot break.
  • Thank you for thinking of me, however, I already made plans.
  • I would love to but I have to say no.
  • My schedule is all packed. Can talk about it next week?

Saying no isn't easy if you're inclined to yes all the time. However, learning to say no is a vital part of simplifying your life and staying away from situations that can create unnecessary stress for you. With practice, saying no gets easier and easier.