The Subtle Art of Saying “No”

Riya has a habit of saying yes to everything assigned to her. Whenever Riya is told to do something, she agrees to do it even if she just doesn’t want to do it. There are times when she knows that she wouldn’t be able to do it or simply she doesn’t have time to do it but still she agrees to do it. And at times, she even goes out of her way to complete it. Sometimes she is frustrated because this leaves her no time to complete her tasks. This pattern is evident not only in personal life but also in professional life. She decides to say “no” the next time someone asks her to do something. But when the time comes, she actually says yes again. Every time she does it, she hates herself.  At the same time, she fears people will start disliking her, she won’t be a good person and people will think that she is selfish, if she says “no”. She also thinks that saying no she will bring criticism and her friends would leave her. This again stops her from saying “no”.

We often hear people saying,

“I wish I could have said no because I don’t have time for completing my tasks. But now I will have to do it because I said yes”.

Phrases such as these are very common and many of us often go out of our way to help someone because we cannot say no to them.

Do you think of putting your foot forward sometimes to say no? Even if we do, for some of us everything in goes in vain, because we feel compelled to agree to every request. What we often don’t realise is that even by learning to say a simple no we can earn respect from not only ourselves but also from others around us.

Self confidence and self-esteem play a huge role when it comes to this. We often say yes to things because deep inside we lack confidence and feel nervous because our worth is dependent on what other people say or think about us.

Not only this, saying yes to every request may have its roots in your childhood. We are often raised to not say ‘No’ to our parents and other grown-ups around us. Sometimes, we grow up believing,

“I am only lovable if I take care of everyone else needs”.

As a result, we eventually become people pleasers and our self-worth soon becomes dependent on what we do for people or what we do in order to please them.

Being unable to say “no” may take a toll on your mental health, and makes you feel exhausted, frustrated, stressed and irritable. This happens because you may not be able to achieve the expected outcome of pleasing everyone. You may start blaming yourself for it. Going out of your way to do things people ask you to do, may leave you with no time for self and loved ones which may add to your frustration.

Fortunately, you can learn to say ‘No’ in a few simple steps.

Simple steps that enable you to say NO

  • Be firm and direct – Say ‘no’ using phrases, such as Thank you for considering me and coming to me but I’m afraid as I think it is not convenient for me right now”. Or “I’m sorry but I won’t be able to help this evening”. While keeping the response simple and direct, try to be strong in your body language. Do not be over-apologetic because you are not doing anything wrong in politely denying what you can’t do.
  • Take your time – In order to interrupt the “Yes” pattern, practice using phrases like “I’ll get back to you”. This will help you consider your options. Having thought it through, you will be able to say ‘no’ with much greater confidence.
  • Consider a compromise – When someone comes to you with a request, you can try negotiating and come up with ways that suit both of you. But avoid compromising if you really want to say ‘no’ or have limited time and ability to do so.
  • Separate refusal from rejection – Saying ‘no’ does not mean rejecting someone or being rejected by someone because you are turning down a request, not the person. Just as people have the choice to ask you for favour, people will understand you also have the choice to say ‘no’.

Be true to yourself. Be clear and honest with yourself about what you truly want.

July 5, 2019
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