Dare to Say No

2012-05-29 (Tuesday) by Mikael Linusson

Something a lot of people seem to have a problem with is saying no. Especially to other people, but in some cases also to themselves. Daring to say no is more or less a must in this busy world.

Saying Yes, Part One

Saying yes is something we all should do sometimes, both because of social circumstances and because we really want to help the one asking. But saying yes can be quite a burden if you have the wrong kind of people around you, or if people have gotten used to you always being there for them.

Accepting Responsibility

Even if you feel that people are mistreating you by abusing your kindness (i.e. your inability to say no), I would like to suggest that you take 100% responsibility of the fact that you have said yes to all those requests, you have created the situation as it is now. By accepting the responsibility you also gain more power over the situation. Blaming others won't help you much.

Even if you don't like the thought of what I just said, please ponder it for a moment.

Saying No To Other People

There really isn't an easy way to say no, or let me correct myself, there really isn't any hard way to say no. You just do it. You just say "No!" or "No thanks, not this time". Or if you are really sorry that you can't help someone, you could say something like "I'm really sorry but no, I can't / won't / don't want to help you this time". But don't say you're sorry if you're not, that's called lying.

If you are having really big problems with saying no, then start with the small things and work yourself up. Build a "I'm saying no self-confidence" step by step. First just say no to the small things with the people that you feel most comfortable saying no to, then gradually do it with bigger things and with more and more people.

In other cases, depending on how you are as a person and how the people around you behave, you might need to be more brutal. So to cure yourself of a really tough case of the "I'm saying yes to everything"-disease, you might want or need to break your yes-habits by saying no to everything, and I mean everything, for a while (a day, two days, a week, or whatever feels right to you).

If you want to, you can explain to your friends / family / co-workers what's going on. Don't be ashamed of saying no, and don't be ashamed of you changing the way you are. If you have never told people how you feel about them asking you to help them all the time, how should they know? There is a big chance that they will understand. And if they don't understand or don't want to accept the new you, then it might be time to rethink your so called friendship, but that's another topic.

One thing to remember is that you don't need to give the other person a reason for why you choose to say no. Sure, you can give them a reason if you want to, and it might be nice of you to do so, but in most cases you don't owe anyone a reason for why you can't / won't / don't want to help them. If you give them a reason there is also always a risk of counter-arguments in case they don't like your excuse. I'm not saying you shouldn't do it, just that you don't have to do it.

Saying No To Yourself

Saying no to yourself is a completely different beast. Maybe you really really want that new smartphone, or those new shoes, or you want to go see a movie, even though you know that you ought to spend your money more wisely this month. Or maybe you know that you ought to do that dreaded homework that is due tomorrow, but all of your friends are going to a concert with your favorite band. So instead of saying no you make a choice that you will regret later on.

In a lot of cases we choose instant gratification even though we will regret ourselves later on. In other cases we are trying to please either ourselves or someone else, for example by trying to do way too much at once.

Saying no to yourself can be hard, and in a lot of cases it might not even be clear upfront what the correct choice is. But you probably know if you are having problem with saying no to yourself.

Whatever the reason, whatever your choices are, here is a few tips:

  • Make sure you know what it is that you really want to do. Maybe you don't say no because that's the thing you really want to do, even though you are trying to force yourself to do something else.
  • If you are putting something off now, to reach a goal further on, then make sure you constantly remind yourself of that goal.
  • If you are trying to do way too much, then you really need to sit down and think about your life and what you are doing.

Saying no to yourself is a lot about making sure you know what you want to do, and why you want to do it as well as knowing what you don't want to do right here and now.

Saying Yes, Part Two

A great thing about saying no more and more is that you will have more time and energy to say yes to the things that really matters to you.

Some Final Thoughts

The point isn't to say no to everything and everybody, but to make more conscious choices and do more of the things you like, and less of the things you don't like.

And yeah, if you're working somewhere, don't say no to your work duties unless you like the thought of getting kicked out of your job. ;)