Saying “No” in a sweet sense
Many people hesitate to say no, even when they are over-stressed, overbooked, and just too busy to take on anything else. If you struggle with this, then you’re not alone. But it’s important to learn how to say no to people and their requests. Being unable to can contribute to more stress, which may eventually turn to resentment.
Say goodbye to being a people pleaser and learn how to confidently say no to someone without feeling bad about it.
“I’m Sorry—I Can’t Do This Right Now”
Sometimes it helps to stall until you have a chance to fully look at how saying “yes” to this new commitment may affect your life and the lives of those who already depend on you. Use a sympathetic, but firm tone.
If pressured as to why, reply that it doesn’t fit into your schedule, and change the subject. Most reasonable people will accept this as an answer, so if someone keeps pressuring you, they’re being rude.
It’s OK to repeat, “I’m sorry, but this just doesn’t fit with my schedule,” and change the subject.
Practice saying no.
Knowing when to say no takes time and practice. The more often you say no, the easier it will become. Practice assertiveness in all areas of your life until the habit is built into your lifestyle.
People sometimes have a hard time saying no because they haven’t taken the time to evaluate their relationships and understand their role within the relationship. When you truly understand the dynamic and your role, you won’t feel as worried about the consequences of saying no. You’ll realise that your relationship is solid and can withstand your saying no.
“Let Me Think About It”
If you’re uncomfortable being firm or are dealing with pushy people, it’s OK to say, “Let me think about it and get back to you.” This gives you a chance to review your schedule and consider your options.
This strategy also allows you to think about whether you want to say “yes” to another commitment. To make a decision, do a cost-benefit analysis and then get back to them with a yes or no.
Giving yourself time to think helps you avoid letting yourself be pressured into overscheduling your life and taking on too much stress.
If someone can’t accept your no, then you know the person is probably not a true friend or doesn’t respect you. Stand firm, and don’t feel compelled to give in just because that person is uncomfortable.
Don’t beat around the bush.
Providing long-winded explanations about why you can’t do something rarely makes things easier. Instead, opt for a short, simple, and straightforward approach to saying no.
Unfortunately, you might not always have the luxury of saying no to someone over text or email at your own convenience.
Sometimes, these invites or requests happen spontaneously and in person, requiring an answer immediately. To prepare for these situations, it’s useful to rehearse your noes beforehand.
“Thanks so much for the invite, but I’m really trying to focus on my work these days, so I’m gonna have to say no.”
“I actually have a lot on my plate right now, so I can’t help you out here. I appreciate that you thought of me, though! Good luck on getting it done.”
“I’m sorry, but I told myself I really have to go to the gym tonight. Actually, I’ve vowed to go to the gym consistently so I hit my New Year’s Resolution—I hope you can understand.”
When to actually say no
Sometimes, we say yes because we don’t know what we want. Other times, we simply need to gather ourselves enough to speak up.
Either way, here’s your permission slip to start thinking about when it’s best for you to decline. To kick-start the discovery process, ask yourself these questions anytime you’re not positive about how to proceed:
- Will saying yes prevent me from focusing on something that’s more important?
- Does this potential project, opportunity, or activity align with my values, beliefs, and goals?
- What are my core values, beliefs, and current goals?
- Will saying yes make me even more tired or burnt out?
- Will saying yes be good for my mental health? Or will it worsen my symptoms?
- In the past, when have I said yes and then ended up regretting it?
- When am I more likely to accept a request I’d rather decline? How can I reduce these challenges?
We all need a little support sometimes. Especially when it comes to managing communication with others. But to be the healthiest, happiest version of yourself, you need to lay down boundaries.
Whether you’re at home or at work, knowing how to say no is a skill you can benefit from for the rest of your life. Prioritising your needs is one of the most loving things you can do for yourself.
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