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No is a complete sentence and so often we forget that. When we don’t want to do something we can simply smile and say no.
Are you a people pleaser? Are you the kind of person that friends and acquaintances can always count on to come through for them in a pinch? Are you the one who is always up for whatever is suggested and ready to go on a dime? Maybe being that benevolent, helpful person makes you feel useful, important and valuable. But being that person can also eventually make you feel stressed out, abused, resentful and may even lead to burnout if you are not careful.
We all want to be perceived as helpful. We all want to be liked. No one wants to be perceived as somehow rude or selfish for saying no or declining an invitation. After all, we are social beings and we thrive on relationships. We say yes when we want to say no because we don’t want to feel guilty or have our reputation tarnished. Saying no feels, to many of us, like the ultimate social sin. We feel like saying no will somehow ostracize us from our peers.
But we are are not superhuman. We have lives to live, jobs to go to, families to raise and spend time with, crisis to manage, bills to pay, and our health to take care of. We all have the same 24 hours a day and 7 days a week to live our lives. We have to make choices and sift through everything. We live by the calendar and by the clock trying to fit everything in. Yet, in spite of our business and troubles, we say yes more than we should or than is healthy.
Here are the top 10 reasons we avoid saying no:
- We want to protect our social relationships
- We want to keep up our perceived reputation
- We want to avoid confrontation and conflict
- We feel guilty for saying no
- We genuinely want to help or participate
- We fear losing out on an opportunity
- We don’t want to disappoint
- We feel that saying no is not an option
- We have not set healthy boundaries
- We have not determined our priorities
We must say “no” to treating ourselves, our health, our needs as not as important as someone else’s. We must say “no.” – Suzette R. Hinton
How Saying Yes Can Hurt Us
Saying yes to others means we are saying no to ourselves
When we say yes to others we are also handling our time over to them; we are no longer in charge of our time since it is now in someone else’s hands. We have essentially said that what they want us to do with our time is more important than what we want to do with it. Time is a precious resource and we should carefully consider how we want to spend it and with whom we want to spend it.
Saying yes to others can bring about harmful effects to our emotional health
We may initially say yes because we want to help or because of any one of the reasons listed above, but saying yes, especially when we want to say no can hold us captive. Feelings of frustration, resentment, powerlessness, and general unhappiness can result. Too much giving out of ourselves and not enough refilling and reenergizing can also lead to burnout. We may have wanted to act in good faith, protect our relationship circles and not cause any waves, but in the end, it is possible that relationships and our health may become seriously harmed as a result.
Saying yes can lead to loss of control
Saying yes just because we are asked for help or invited somewhere is not a good reason to say yes. If we do so just because then we are not really in control of our decision or the resulting consequences. It is a bit like going to the shopping center and buying clothes simply because there are clothes for sale. Just because the clothes are for sale (or even on sale) does not mean we should or need to buy them. If we do, then we are not in control of our money, are we? In the same way, we need to be in control and feel confirmed in saying yes.
Saying yes takes our focus off our priorities
Not only does saying yes to people take away our control, but it also takes our focus off our priorities. Saying yes to some people for the sake of being asked also means saying no to others (our close relations) that we need to spend more time with. Saying yes to being asked for help or an invitation also means saying no to our need to spend time refreshing ourselves (sleeping, relaxing, thinking). Saying yes to invitations out (for example entertainment) can also mean saying no to our need to budget carefully and reduce our spending. Saying yes when we should say no can violate our priorities.
When you say yes to others, make sure you are not saying no to yourself.” Paulo Coelho
Why We Should Say No
Respect from peers
Although some people might at first feel slighted or hurt if we say no to their request, particularly those closes to us, in time most we come to respect our decisions and the boundaries we set by being in charge of our choices. They will see that we are not easily influenced or a “pushover”. A great many people have difficulty saying no so when they encounter one who is able to do so consistently, they develop an admiration for this ability.
Saying no means we can also say yes
When we discern when to say no to requests, opportunities and perceived needs, we also open up the opportunity to yes to other things and people. It is liberating to be able to decide for ourselves how we will spend our time (or other resources) and with whom. This freedom takes away any guilt, stress, and frustration since we are fully in charge of our decision.
We have a life too
Our life is ours to live just as others have their lives to live. We can be there for other people, but we do not have to have our lives run by their needs or wants.It is a hard enough job trying to live our own lives and trying to sort ourselves out in all the business and demands of life. Although we are connected to people, we also have to set boundaries to protect our time and other resources.
To protect and respect our boundaries
Our boundaries include physical, emotional, relational and time boundaries. It is our responsibility and privilege to protect them and we protect them by respecting them ourselves and by not allowing others to override them. Saying no is a clear and effective way to give people the message that we know our limits and that we stand by them.
We don’t need a reason
Actually, we don’t. We are under no obligation to defend our reasons or explain or justify to anyone. Now, of course, I am not suggesting that we come across as rude or abrasive- that would defeat the purpose. I simply mean that we do not have to have a reason for our decision and we do not owe an explanation. We can quite simply say “No, thank you” and leave it at that. And our no should be a no and not a maybe or a no that turns into a yes.
How To Say No Effectively
It is never easy to say no and often our no is met with resistance, manipulation or pressure of some kind. Sometimes our no is respected and honored, but not always. People are people and they have wants and pressing needs- things to be done, people to see and places to go. So how can we get good at saying no?
Inc.com suggests 7 effective ways that we can do this in their article; 7 Tips for Saying No Effectively.
- Say it – don’t stall, don’t delay
- Be assertive and courteous
- Understand people’s tactics
- Set boundaries
- Relay the question back on to the asker’s shoulders
- Stand firm – no means no
- Your needs first
So, there you have it. Learning to say no is a healthy skill to develop. It will come in handy many times and save you time (and give you back your time), stress, energy, and frustration. It will also build your confidence and empower you to live life on your terms and not be at the beck and call of unimportant emergencies or must-do-now scenarios.
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Diane Lynne enjoys travel, self-improvement, pursuing a debt-free/financially free life. She also loves hanging out with family, friends and being with her dog Skye. Diana is a Quebec City girl. who loves living life. You can connect with her at livingandstuff.ca