At work and at home, it’s easy to say “yes” so often, you forget what you’re saying “yes” to. Nevertheless, learning how to say “no” is a powerful skill.
If you’ve always felt a compulsion to meet everyone else’s needs before your own then this is for you, I know it’s hard to imagine being different but people-pleasing is not only what you do, but a strong part of who you believe you are. If this sounds like you, before you can move forward in your time management habits, you need to realize you don’t have to be so vulnerable to these attacks on your schedule. You can maintain appropriate boundaries. However, I’m in no way suggesting you should deny yourself an amazing life and/or relationship experiences.
Let me tell you what happens when you put yourself first. You’re not being selfish!! I spent the greater part of my life putting others first. I truly thought it was what I was supposed to do! What I came to find, however, is that if you’re pouring all of your effort and resources into someone else, you have nothing left to pour into yourself. I was exhausted. I was overdrawn in more ways than one. I was stretched thin and I felt like I was failing the ones I loved because I was not able to give them my best self. There was only one way I could change that, I began to put myself first. Start with you first. You need to be healthy. You need to create stability in your life. You need to conquer your own demons before you can effectively help others do the same! As you do this you will be better suited to help others. In fact, your life will begin to effortlessly overflow! It’s from this place that you can show others how to overcome their circumstances for themselves!
Over the last two years, I realized my people-pleasing tendencies were creating stress and inefficient production cycles. Thanks to someone (who isn’t even in my life anymore) and simple exercises in saying “no,” I’ve begun to preserve my most valuable resource while growing personally and professionally. If you’re reading this post you probably have a problem saying no—the same problem I used to have until I learned how wonderful not helping people can be. But in all seriousness, saying no is about respecting your own time and making sure you’re not spreading yourself too thin.
Every time you agree to do something you do not believe is right, or want to do, it beats you up mentally. I know firsthand. People like to see progress. To create.
Saying “no” is your battle shield for deflecting distractions, staying true to yourself, and sticking to the course. Trust your gut—your brain will thank you.
Do not fear “the no.” It may seem like a powerfully intimidating two-letter word. But for such a tiny word, “no” is profoundly liberating. When you decide, “this does not warrant my immediate attention, or this is counterproductive we’re not doing this” you embrace your intuition.
We aim to please, and so saying “no” to a request can be a hard thing to do. Most of us don’t like to introduce negativity into the conversation, cause a possible confrontation, or have someone think less of us because we don’t agree. That said, it’s often important to turn things down. We can’t do it all. Helping people can be great, but if you say yes to everyone who asks you’ll never be able to do it all. You also may find that you’re frequently taking on tasks you don’t enjoy. This isn’t good for anyone because you’re not going to do your best when you’re unhappy. (Also, you probably don’t like being unhappy.)
If you say “yes” too much and “no” too little, you’re probably aware of these issues. But how do you stop? You just need a little forethought and a little confidence in yourself.
It helps to understand how you feel about a given situation ahead of time and who you’d be willing to help so you can give an honest answer when asked. Often times the guilt from saying “no” can stem from not really feeling confident in the reason why you said it in the first place. If you think about these things ahead of time and understand why you don’t want to sign a petition or donate money to a cause you support when asked on the street, you won’t leave with guilt sinking into the pit of your stomach.
Once you’ve figured out how you feel, it’ll be easier to go with your gut on certain decisions. This way, when someone makes a request you’ll be able to ask yourself “do I want to do this?” and receive a quick answer you can trust. If you’re still not sure, don’t feel pressured to answer one way or the other. Tell the person requesting your help that you need some time to think about it and make sure it’s something you can do. If they’re reasonable, they’ll understand your position and appreciate that you’re putting thought into your decision rather than simply rejecting them outright because you’re not sure.
When saying “no,” you’ll be tempted to provide a reason because you don’t want the person requesting your help to think you’re so awful you’d just say no for no reason at all.
But if you asked for help and someone said “no I can’t,” would you assume they’re just declining arbitrarily? Probably not. That doesn’t mean you should provide absolutely no context for your answer, but providing an excuse gives people a reason to contest your decision.
That said, providing a simple “no” without context can seem a bit harsh. All you have to say is “no, I’m not able to” or “no, I don’t have enough time right now.” Feel free to throw in a “but thank you for asking/thinking of me” if you feel like adding extra politeness. Either way, the idea is to avoid excuses and simply give context. Too much information will only lead to problems and demonstrate that you feel guilty about saying no.
Despite your best efforts, some people will continue to ask even after you’ve told them you can’t help. This kind of behaviour is inappropriate and you shouldn’t feel bad about countering these continued requests with a firm resolve. The person asking needs to know that you’re not going to change your mind, and they’re likely still asking you because
1) they feel desperate and
2) believe they can wear down your defenses until you’ll finally just say “yes.”
There’s one more thing you should always remember: don’t remove “yes” from your vocabulary. Once you start to feel comfortable with saying “no” more regularly and enjoy the free time you’ve regained in your life, you’ll probably be more inclined to say it whenever something you don’t want to do arises. I’m afraid that it is a fact of life that you are sometimes going to have to do things you don’t want to do. Most people don’t enjoy cleaning, but you can’t decline your chores forever. You also may want to, say, help your friends move so they’ll feel more inclined to help you when you ask for their help. These are situations you’re likely aware of, but it’s important to keep them in mind. Sometimes the power of “no” can be overwhelming, so just like with good and evil you need “yes” to balance things out.