Learning to Say “No”
Saying “no” isn’t easy. Most of us are conditioned to say “yes”—after all, saying “no” can feel so negative. But it’s important to find a balance between your happiness and other people’s requests. Saying “no” can be hard at times but saying “yes” to everything can leave you feeling depleted, overworked, and annoyed, which only manages to exacerbate your problems.
Read on to learn the benefits of saying “no” more often—and then learn how it do it without being rude.
It Creates Authenticity
When you’re grinning and bearing your way through a bunch of obligations, you’re not being true to yourself or those around you. When you learn to say “no” when you need to, you lead a more authentic life, and this allows you to really show up for those things that you do say “yes” to. You become a person who really commits when you commit to something, which enables you to do your best work, be the person others can count on, and be more productive.
It Prevents Resentment
How many times have you said “yes” to something you really wanted to say “no” to—only to end up feeling anger towards the person you said “yes” to? This person is not at fault for inviting you to that brunch you didn’t want to attend or asking you to take on an extra work project. You are! Saying “no” when you want to actually preserves and strengthens your relationships.
It Keeps You from Overextending Yourself
When you say “yes” to everything, you run the risk of overscheduling your calendar and taking on more than you can comfortably do well. When you say “no” to something, remember: You’re not lazy, you’re taking care of yourself.
It Allows You to Say “Yes” to Things You Hold Dear
Saying “no” frees you up to live your values as you prioritize what really matters to you. Your time is finite: Protect it by saying “no” when you need to in order to have precious hours for meaningful work, visits with loved ones, and self-care. Saying “no” can also give you more time to say “yes” when it really matters—when a friend or family member is truly in need of help or when you’re invited to a social event that you really can’t miss.
How to Do It
Here’s how to say “no” with grace, so that you can honor your own needs and respect the person to whom you’re saying “no”.
- Keep your guilt in check. When you get an invitation you want to turn down, or someone asks you to take on extra work that you just can’t swing, listen to your intuition. Do you want to say “yes” out of guilt? Understand that putting yourself first is hard work, but it benefits you and others around you in the end. Resist the urge to only say “yes” in order to please others or because you feel obligated. Striking a balance between saying “yes” and saying “no” can be tricky, but as you practice saying “no”, you’ll find it gets easier to navigate.
- Don’t wait. Say “no” upfront and early. Don’t waffle by half-committing to something only to end up canceling. Don’t leave an RSVP dangling in purgatory and then finally say “no” the day you need to give a response. If you feel in your gut that you’re a “no” from the get-go, delaying only makes you more stressed (and puts the other person in a position of having to wait on you).
- Be gracious. Give the other person your appreciation for inviting you to that party, trusting you with that task or thinking of you for that project. Then, calmly and clearly tell them that you won’t be able to do whatever it is they are asking. A polite, honest response is always best.
- Don’t make excuses. You may feel the urge to make an excuse (real or made-up) to explain why you need to say “no.” This isn’t necessary. You don’t need to have a reason for saying “no”—in fact, stating an excuse can compel the other person to counteract the reason and try to “fix” it. (For instance: You might tell an acquaintance that you can’t make it to their dinner party because you can’t get a sitter for the kids, then the person may say, “No problem! You can bring your kids.”) Simply saying, “I can’t make it this time,” ends the conversation.
- Create a “yes.” Perhaps you have to say “no” to an expensive trip with friends for financial or timing reasons. It may be tough to know you’re missing out and you may feel sad that this particular event just won’t work for you. However, while you may be a “no” for that vacation, you can be a “yes” for grabbing dinner with the group afterwards to catch up. Make a point to create yesses in instances like these when you want to maintain connection.
Create Healthy Boundaries
The gut reaction when you say “no” to something is guilt, but sometimes it is a necessary thing. In order to maintain healthy relationships with those you care about, and with yourself, you must learn to say “no,” and not beat yourself up about it afterwards. We all need time to ourselves; give yourself permission to take it.
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