Saying no to others can be difficult and uncomfortable, especially if you’re a helper at heart. We don’t normally say no to people for several reasons. We don’t want to hurt others feelings, we are afraid of being rude, we fear that if we don’t say yes we won’t be accepted or liked, we don’t like conflict or we feel responsible for everything. Sometimes it’s less time consuming to give people what they want.
These reasons lead us to take on too many obligations, stretch ourselves financially and wish our way out of the cycle. In the interest of preserving relationships we often do what others want rather than fulfill our own needs. After a while the lost energy, resentment and stress is unhealthy for anyone.
In a civilized society most people have been raised to be nice and helpful. We can take these expectations to the extreme and allow others to take advantage of those characteristics. With acquaintances and strangers saying no is hard enough, but telling people that we care about is even more difficult. Friends and family usually know how to push guilt buttons and are close enough to ask repeatedly.
1. Give Yourself Permission
One way to fight this is by giving yourself permission to say no in the first place. Only when you feel that you have a right to say no, limit your obligations to others and take back your time can you begin to approach the subject.
2. Value Yourself
You should only say yes when you genuinely want to do something. It is important to understand that you have your own priorities and needs that you are putting aside to help make others’ lives easier. Saying no is really about respecting and valuing your own time. The time spent fulfilling everyone else’s wishes limits your ability to work on your own basic needs. When you don’t give to yourself eventually your energy runs out. Feeling exhausted, stressed and overextended is not in your best interest or even that of the people who depend on you most.
There are many ways to say no.
- I won’t be able to help
- This isn’t a good time
- No, thank you
- That won’t work for me
- No thanks, I’m all booked
- I can’t commit to that
- I have other commitments that make it impossible
Be Firm and Consistent
Try to be firm and consistent. Don’t feel the need to apologize; you don’t need a reason. You simply need to let people know that you mean it. You could follow up repeated questioning with a hint that you have private reasons that you’d rather not discuss.
Expect and accept that some people will react negatively. Some will be angry with you, some will stop speaking to you, and others will feel hurt. You have to balance the fear of this reaction with your own personal need to reclaim your time or money. Working through that difficulty is important because the fear of not being accepted or liked can lead to extreme people pleasing.
It can be difficult, but exploring why it’s difficult opens up the possibility of saying no and meaning it. Try to understand why you have a resistance to claiming your own time. Recognizing those reasons and working through can be the starting point to saying no once and for all.