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October 4, 2013     0


Learning to Say No

Self-care is a concept that has become increasingly elusive in our society. It sounds so simple, yet most of us spend our lives over worked, run down and stressed out. We’ve lost sight of the fact that self-care, which includes putting ourselves first and learning to say no, should be one of our top priorities.

So why are so many of us uncomfortable with the idea of saying no?

Let’s take a look at some of the more common reasons.

You want to help. Of course you do. You’re a good person with a big heart and a kind soul. You certainly don’t want to turn someone away who is asking for your assistance, even if you don’t have any time to give.

You’re afraid of being rude. Many of us were brought up to believe it was rude to say no, especially to our elders. In fact, if I would have said no to a request by an adult when I was growing up, I probably would have got my ass beat with a belt. (Insert gay joke here) .

You’re afraid of conflict. You don’t want to piss somebody off or make them feel rejected by saying no. You avoid confrontation by becoming a “yes man”.

You don’t want to burn a bridge. You’re worried about missing out on an opportunity, favor or “perk” if you say no. You’re worried about rattling the boss’ cage or getting on your boyfriend’s bad side.

You’re afraid of feeling less than. Some people fall into the trap of comparing themselves to others. They see friends and coworkers juggling multiple volunteer activities, work projects and personal favors daily, so they think they should too.

So where does this behavior come from?

As always, Psych 101 rears its ugly head. Your ability to say no is directly related to your self-confidence and self-esteem. People with low self-confidence or low self-esteem get very nervous at the idea of saying no to someone and pissing them off. They also have a tendency to put other people’s needs ahead of their own. This “people-pleasing” mentality is based on the notion that your self-worth is derived from the things you do for other people. This gets ugly fast when people recognize this trait in you and begin to take advantage of it.

So what happens if we don’t learn to say no and set appropriate boundaries with the people in our lives?

When you don’t take proper care of yourself and ensure enough “me time”, you open yourself up to heightened stress, resentment, exhaustion and eventually burnout. You also rob yourself of time spent enjoying things you’re passionate about. This could include spending time with loved ones, building a business, pursuing hobbies or simply having some alone time. From a professional standpoint, if you take on too any projects at work, the quality of your deliverables could suffer. Trying to impress your boss by never saying no can have larger, negative long term ramifications on your career if your overpromise and under deliver.

Now let’s take a look at some ways you can say no when being asked for your time.

Keep your response simple. If you want to say no, you can be polite, firm and direct. Don’t over-apologize for wanting to take care of yourself. Remember, you’re not asking permission to say no.

Be respectful. Many good causes land at your feet and it can be tough to turn them down. Being complimentary of the group’s effort, while saying no, shows that you respect what they’re doing.

Be true to yourself. Be completely honest with yourself and the other person about what you truly want and let that guide your response.

Don’t compromise. Avoid compromising if you really want or need to say no.

Don’t feel guilty for saying no. Whether it be a friend, coworker, spouse or partner, it’s important for them to hear you say no from time to time so they recognize your boundaries.

Be ready to repeat. You may need to refuse a request several times before the other person accepts your response.

Explore other options. You can always negotiate the size of the request, take time to think about it, postpone the request or refer the requestor to someone who can help them right away.

Remember, you can’t be there for the people in your life if you’re not there for yourself first. Saying no won’t be easy, especially at the beginning, but with practice, it gets easier. Saying no is your prerogative. It’s about ensuring you don’t overextend yourself and become resentful of the people in your life. Most importantly, it’s about respecting and valuing your time and space. And now I’m going to leave you with a quote that wraps this article up nicely (and it’s tweetable too!):

Saying yes to happiness means learning to say no to things and people that stress you out. -Thema Davis

In what areas of your life do you need to say no? What are some friendly “no responses” you’ve used when declining a request? Join in on the conversation by adding your comments below.



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