Amanda Cade

Worth It! (Things to try, read, watch, hear, and discuss)

Last week, we talked about asking for help when you’re overwhelmed and stressed. Today, let’s consider the other side of the equation: when someone’s asking you.

Should you say yes?

When people come to me, “yes” is my default answer. However, while agreeing is the nice thing to do, that doesn’t mean it’s always the right thing to do. If you aren’t careful, you could find yourself taking on more than you can manage. Last fall, I wrote a post called Things that Aren’t Selfish, and there’s a similar point to make here. It’s great to help others, and to decrease their stress level, but doing so at the expense of your own well-being is a little too much selflessness. So ask yourself:

  • Do I have the time and energy to do this?
  • Do I have some responsibility in this situation?
  • Can I do this without shortchanging other important things I need to accomplish?
  • Am I the best or most appropriate person to step in?
  • Can I count on the person asking me to reciprocate in the future?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, you should consider kindly refusing the request.

How do you say no?

If you’ve decided it’s best to refuse, or partly refuse, the request, saying so can feel awkward and uncomfortable. Here are a couple of ways to handle it:

The No-Time No: A time crunch is the most common reason people have to say no, and is also the easiest for someone else to accept, since chances are they’re in a similar situation. Simply saying, “I’m sorry, I’d love to help, but I just don’t have the time right now” is an honest, forthright way to refuse. If you can, point the other person in the direction of someone else who might be able to step in.

The Future No: This one is a partial yes, but there’s a no involved. It involves setting a limit to your involvement and making it clear that there’s only so much you’re able/willing to do. For example, “Yes, I can help you upload that information, but if we encounter any problems you’ll need to talk to Bob in IT” or “I can help you work through the first step, but I won’t be able to stay involved past that point”. With the future no, you’re giving someone the help you can spare, but in a way that prevents you from getting more involved than you can afford. 

The Conditional No: This is another partial yes. Here you say, “No, I can’t do that, unless…”. You want to avoid transactional phrasing here. This isn’t exactly, “I’ll only do X for you if you do Y for me”, but more along the lines of, “I do not have the time to complete X for you unless someone takes Y off my plate, or helps make it easier”. This can even be as simple as saying “no” to the timeframe the person asked for, but letting them know if they get an extension on the task you’ll have time later. Or, if it’s your boss, letting them know you’ll need an extension on something else. 

The “Not my Circus” No: Sometimes, you’re asked for help with something that isn’t in your wheelhouse. This is an obvious no, because you can’t handle it, and during crunch time you don’t have the bandwidth to go outside your normal area like you might want to do during less crazy times. However, there’s one thing you can do with this no that benefits everyone, and it’s such a simple thing, especially with so much communication being electronic right now. Look at the difference between these two responses:

  • “I’m sorry, my department doesn’t handle that, and I don’t know off the top of my head. You’ll want to reach out to Bill, I think that’s his department’s job.”
  • “I’m sorry, my department doesn’t handle that, and I don’t know off the top of my head. I’ve copied Bill on this reply because I think he’s the person who handles this. Bill, could you help Stan with his question, or get him to the right place if I’m wrong?”

It’s such a tiny change and only takes a couple more clicks on your part, but it makes life so much easier for everyone involved. 

How do you balance your desire to help others with your own well-being?

26 thoughts on “Should You Give Help?

  1. Jennie says:

    Excellent points, Amanda.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      Thank you. It’s tough to find the right balance these days.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Jennie says:

        You are welcome, Amanda. And, yes it is hard to find a balance.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Alien Resort says:

    One supervisor’s response to a question was to give you something lengthy to read that may or may not be tangentially related to your question.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      That doesn’t sound particularly helpful.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Ladysag77 says:

    Important post my friend. I always return to this question, “Am I pouring from a full cup”? I used to be a complete people pleaser and too passive. Over these years healing, I’ve learned to assert myself and understand it’s not selfish to sake care of me first in fact it’s the best choice. If more of is did this how much better our world would be. Loving and caring for oneself first and then pouring what we can manage into others. Thanks for sharing your tips and strategies. It empowers others to take back control in their lives and stand in their power🙏😊❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      That’s a great question to ask. I also like the metaphor of putting your own oxygen mask on first.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Jeff Flesch says:

    Wow, what a question, Amanda. I’ve worked on this a lot the past three years. Ultimately, for me, it’s about balance and awareness. Balancing taking care of myself, first, and then making time for others. And, to stay aware and notice if that balance starts to shift. If it does, shift it back. Important. Nice post, and a great question. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      Thanks, Jeff. I’m glad you brought up awareness. One of my biggest challenges over the years has been a strong impulse to help out which has led to me saying “yes” without thinking. I’ve really had to concentrate on thinking things through before giving an answer.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. JustBeingMe says:

    Thanks for this. I’ve been trying to come up with some kind ways to say no to people. Normally with me it’s friends and family I need to say no to and I find that really hard. I’ll be able to adapt some of your ideas though. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      I hope it works for you. I agree that saying no to friends and family can be especially difficult.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Great post Amanda,.
    it’s a really difficult situation and a precarious balance between biting off more than one can chew and hurting other people

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      It’s a line I walk constantly. Even today I reminded myself of my own advice, because I spent half my morning on other people’s issues, and had to throttle back.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It must be great having you as a colleague.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Amanda Cade says:

        Thank you! I certainly hope my team feels the same. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. For me it’s saying no to babysitting the grandkids.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      I know my parents struggle with that one. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Simon says:

    In my work people seem to expect thigns in an unrealistic time. I correct that quite calmly and professionally and they don’t like it but I have adjusted their expections and they can’t get away from that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      That’s always a challenge. My favorite is when I get two or three different higher-ups asking me to do things at the same time. I’ve been known to send emails to all of them at once explaining my current task list and asking them to decide among themselves which project I should prioritize, and then let me know when they make a decision.

      Like

      1. Simon says:

        You know what that’s the best thing you can do. I’ve done something similar and it really fucks some people off mainly because they know they can’t touch you 😂😂

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I like the question about if I am the best person to solve the problem. A friend called last night because her sewer backed up. I knew I couldn’t solve it, but I had the number of a professional who could. As for asking for help, I still need to work on that. Once in a while I do. Thanks, good discussion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda Cade says:

      My sympathies to your friend-I had a similar problem earlier this week. Definitely not fun.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No, it’s not. It happens every two years here, glad we have an unfinished basement.

        Liked by 1 person

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