The formula that helps INFJs say no

How to say no INFJ planning

I love the physical and mental act of putting away the old and making room for the new at the start of each new year. That may mean swapping out the wall calendar or setting aside mindsets that won’t serve my goals for the new year. Right now, you and I both have a fresh, new calendar in which we get to make decisions about how we’ll use our time.

Whether you like setting goals, coming up with a word for the year, or simply like the idea of the newness the new year brings, this is the time to set up some guidelines for the things that will make it onto your fresh, new calendar.

Your life’s timeline contains valuable real estate.

What guidelines do you have for what you say “yes” to? When you say yes to something, it takes up valuable real estate on the timeline of your life. Every day, hour, minute, and second of your life is valuable. In an ideal world, saying yes to something would mean that “something” would align with who you are, who you want to be, and what’s most important to you. But that’s not always what our yeses mean, is it? What guidelines do you have for what you say “yes” to? When you say yes to something, it takes up valuable real estate on the timeline of your life. Every day, hour, minute, and second of your life is valuable. In an ideal world, saying yes to something would mean that “something” would align with who you are, who you want to be, and what’s most important to you. But that’s not always what our yeses mean, is it?

Many INFJs tend to say yes way too frequently. We want to serve others, make them happy, or promote harmony. Saying yes in these cases is not a bad thing on its own. But, you’re saying yes too frequently if those yeses—or an accumulation of those yeses—cause burnout, stress, or regret.

So how can you say no in those times when you really need that calendar real estate for something else (like taking care of yourself or recharging)? If saying no is a new skill for you, it will take practice. As INFJs, we can fall into the trap of expecting perfection of ourselves on the first try. Go into this new skill with an understanding that it’ll get easier over time and that there will be a few bumps along the way.

The formula for saying no.

The formula I share below works whether you’re asked to help with something in person or in writing. If you’re faced with a request in person and don’t feel ready to follow the formula on the spot, simply respond by saying you would like a few minutes, hours, or days to think about it. It’s ok to ask for time to respond to their request!

The formula for saying no is: Acknowledge + Appreciate + Decline.

Step 1: Acknowledge

Start by acknowledging the situation. The act of acknowledging does not involve agreeing or disagreeing. It’s simply restating their situation in a way that indicates that you recognize or understand their need.

For example, I recently declined the opportunity to participate in another entrepreneur’s project. I started by acknowledging their project and what they were trying to accomplish. In this case, I did add some encouraging words to show my support for their work because I believed in what they wanted to do.

Step 2: Appreciate

The next step involves thanking them for their offer. In the case of the opportunity I described above, I simply stated that I appreciated their offer. Depending on how well you know the person, you can add additional notes here. If they have a history of thinking of you, you can express your appreciation that they always consider you.

Step 3: Decline

The final step is to decline the request. So in my earlier example, I said, “I must decline at this time.” Here’s a word of caution, though. If you say no, and you really don’t ever want to be asked again, don’t add the “at this time” part. Be careful with offers of “Let me know if there’s anything else I can do” unless you really mean it. Let your no be no, unless you really do want to leave the door open for future opportunities. In my example, I said they could check back at a particular time if they were still interested in extending the opportunity.

You don’t have to give a reason for your “no.” You may find it easier to say no if you also share your reason, but it’s not necessary. Sharing your reason doesn’t guarantee that the other person will understand or agree with your reason for saying no. In my example, I shared that I already had commitments to many other projects and wasn’t able to take on anything else at the time—which was 100% true.

Now, I get it. This is the most difficult part. If you really want to fill your life’s timeline with things that honor who you are and who you want to be, practice declining offers and requests that aren’t in alignment with those goals. Many times the scenario you’ve built up in your head of saying no, and their response, is much worse than reality. The only way you’ll get better at saying no when you really want to, and handling whatever happens afterwards, is to practice.


What do you think? Does this sound doable for you? What would you add? If you try this out, I’d love to know how it worked for you. Reply below to share your experience with me.