Ready to say no

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Si, yes, oui. No matter what language we speak, saying yes can feel very gratifying. That affirmative word makes us feel that we are helpful, cooperative and ready to lend a helping hand at a drop of a hat. By helping those around us, our world fills with joy and contentment, even when we truly mean to say no.

Saying no is hard because we are so conditioned to please others and avoid conflict at all costs. We don’t want to disappoint our family, friends or coworkers. However, constantly agreeing to take on too many commitments when it’s not in our best interest, will leave us feeling overwhelmed and drained.   

However, being aware of our agency to politely but firmly decline requests will help us build our assertiveness and avoid pointless requests that may run against our priorities: Can you help me groom my dog? Sorry, I have a previous commitment. Can I borrow some money? Nope, I’m on a tight budget. Can you help me clean my garage? I am sorry, I have plenty on my plate at this time.

To be clear, it’s a wonderful thing to be generous and help out others in need with our time, attention, or financial donations. Being of service to others around us is rewarding, particularly when we are responding in kind. Nevertheless, drawing a line in the sand when we give too much to others can truly feel empowering and refreshing.

For a long time, I felt like agreeing to all requests would serve me well in order to be in people’s good graces. Without hesitation and a smiling face, I would accept to help someone with a project even when I was running late to be elsewhere or was not feeling up to the task. I would feel bad or guilty to turn someone down by taking the path of least conflict.

It took some time to realize that being a people pleaser was not who I wanted to be. Instead, I starting practicing (yes, it takes some practice) turning people down and not feeling guilty about it. Quite the contrary, I began to be respected by others when I could articulate my needs and set boundaries without resorting to weak excuses or hesitation.  How can you get started?

Actually practice saying the word: Repeat it a few times in private. Say it a few times and get comfortable pronouncing it. When the occasion calls for it, no will come out effortlessly.  

Be honest: If a colleague asks to work on a weekend and you already have plans, just plainly state that you are not available without making up excuses. As Mark Twain once said “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

Remember your own power:  Yes, it’s very easy to underestimate yourself and let others make decisions for you by defaulting to incessantly saying “yes”. No more of that. Be mindful of your own agency and decision-making ability to stand up for yourself.

Ask yourself, do I really want to do this? Will the end-result benefit me? Those simple questions will help you be more intentional with your day-to-day activities and avoid being derailed by distractions.

Today more than ever we are constantly bombarded by noise, information overload and activities that in the long run do not add anything of value to our lives. Saying “no” more regularly and when the situations merits it, will not only allow you to have more free time, but also afford you the opportunity to do more of what you love, and increase the chances of satisfaction and happiness.