I’ve come to learn that one of the most essential skills in life to learn and master is the ability to say “no” when necessary. I’m not talking about saying no to your children or your husband nonchalantly, I’m talking about when requests are made by others and you want to say yes because you’re so accustomed to saying yes, but you do some self-assessment and conclude that you just can’t and say no.
The art of saying no can be difficult to attempt, let alone master. I am 31 years old and have yet to master it. I’ve acknowledged that I’m a people pleaser and I’d rather say yes to things to make someone feel good than feel bad for saying no. Whether it’s saying yes to an event even if I can’t afford to attend, saying yes to helping with a project when I have a million of my own things to tackle, or saying yes when I would just rather say no. As women, we often feel obligated to say yes to things that we’d rather turn down so that we don’t come off as mean, selfish or insulting. Why is that?
We sometimes feel like it’s easier to say yes to people for various social reasons: we don’t want to come off as uninterested or anti-social, we don’t want to come off as selfish and unreliable and we don’t want to come off as a “bad” person/friend, so we say yes. However, as autonomous individuals we are free to decide and determine what we permit into our lives. We are free to decide what we do with our time, attention and talent.
What I’ve come to understand is saying no doesn’t necessarily mean any of the above when your intentions are to be thoughtful, helpful and willing. I think saying no is so difficult because we haven’t learned how to say no and why it’s okay to say no. The word no is seen as something horribly bad, but doesn’t have to be. When an opportunity or request comes your way instead of immediately saying yes, you have to ask yourself a few questions in order to determine if the answer is yes or no. For me, I would say yes first then think about it later, feel resentful and realize I shouldn’t have said yes maybe because of other obligations, priorities or just not wanting to do it, but since I already did I move forward not because I truly wanted to do it but because I was asked. I believe that when you take on a request or opportunity it should be something you really want to do whether it’s for you or for someone else. You can say yes to babysitting for a friend because you really want to help your friend get a break and do something for themselves. You can also say yes to a new project or professional opportunity because it can help you grow in your career. So there are reasons to say yes and I believe it should be something you truly want to do and not something you feel obligated to do just because you were asked.
I believe in saying no you recognize your capabilities in that moment and you consider your mental health as well because we all know that taking on too many projects and tasks can lead to stress which is no bueno. Sometimes I have to stop and ask myself, “do I have time to do this”, “will this take away from something else of importance”, “will doing this further my goals”, “will this help someone in need”, “do I really want to do this”. Asking these questions usually helps to guide my decision.
After asking myself those questions, I’ve discovered some helpful and guilt free ways to say no that will not only make you feel better about your decision but also help the other person to feel valued and considered. So it’s a win win!
Not This Way
There will be times when an opportunity comes and you want to take on the request but not the whole thing. Maybe you’ve been asked to help plan a birthday party; you can’t help with the planning portion but you’ll be available when it’s time to decorate. In situations like these, you can say, “not this way” and this simply means you can help but under your established conditions based on what you can and cannot do. This enables you to still lend a hand but establish how much of yourself you can lend.
Not Right Now
Let’s say you were invited to a movie and dinner night with some friends and you just didn’t plan for it financially. In a situation like this you can let your friends know that this time isn’t good for you, but next time you’re down! Or you may be asked to help with a new project at church but you know that you have several other things going on and right now isn’t the best time for you. You can just ask to be considered again in the future, but that this time isn’t good for you. This is a great way to show that you are interested but still acknowledging what you are capable of handling at this time.
No, Thank You
Now this one is a struggle for me, but it is
sometimes always okay to just say no, without the excuses (real or fake) or the explanations. You can kindly just say, “no thank you” to requests that you don’t want to do or can’t do and just leave it at that. My husband and I always laugh about why we all have such a difficult time saying no without following it up with an excuse and there is a Buzzfeed video about being honest when making plans and it’s hilarious because it’s so accurate and perfectly depicts real life. We just can’t say no when we don’t want to do something, there always has to be a reason even if there isn’t one. There’s nothing wrong with just saying no without a reason for saying it, but I think we are so accustomed to saying yes and people pleasing that we believe we are hurting the other person’s feelings by saying no. We kind of have to adopt our parent’s “because I said so” response when we feel the need to have a why for saying no lol 🙂
In the end we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings when we have to say no, so it’s more so about “how” we say no than the no itself. It’s important to make sure our no’s are as kind, considerate, and helpful as possible. I believe that goes a long way and the recipient is more understanding and receptive. Also, you feel better in the end for being honest with yourself first and foremost and honest with the requester.
Are you a Yes Woman? Do you often take on more than you should? I’d love to hear ways you are practicing saying no, and if you’re not, I hope these tips are helpful! Either way, drop me a comment below… I’d love to hear from you!