Simple, extremely useful, yet so challenging to say: “No.”
Many people struggle to say this word when they encounter new projects, plans for socializing, requests for help, or even requests to do things they shouldn’t. But saying the word “no” has great benefits; a very important one is the way it helps you set your boundaries. By learning to say no, you’ll be able to set healthy limits for yourself and for what others can demand from you. You’ll feel more confident and better able to communicate your values. You’ll have a better sense of what those values are. Most importantly, you’ll spend your precious time only on what matters. All this undoubtedly provides a more stable life, with much less stress.
If we all agree on the benefits of a simple “no,” why do we struggle to use this word?
What makes saying no so difficult?
Believing that opportunities shouldn’t be missed
Having this core belief is what makes some of us “overachievers.” We tend to say yes to all the opportunities we encounter, thinking we might not have those chances again. Some are indeed really not to be missed, but it’s also true that they’re endless. Not being able to turn down an opportunity makes you overly stressed, always running from one project to the next. You can’t do all the things that you think might be beneficial for you. In the end, having a lot on your plate will do more harm than good.
Desiring to please others all the time
We learn from a very young age that we should do what authority figures tell us to. This core lesson makes us tend to always accept “big favors” in order not to let others down, especially if we think they have authority over us. We also overcommit in order to show others our capabilities and dedication. However, never using the word “no” creates the opposite effect, by hiding our values and priorities as an individual.
Being afraid to seem selfish
Especially in social contexts, we have a way of not making ourselves a priority so that we don’t feel or appear “selfish.” The truth is that we can’t pour from an empty cup, and looking after ourselves should always be a priority. Self-care does not equal selfishness.
Believing you should just because you can
Many obligations we think we have may actually be artificial. Be careful what responsibilities you take on. If you feel bad about saying yes, trust this feeling and don’t fall back on “I had to” as a justification. Remember, “can” never means “should,” and it’s generally not others but yourself who creates all those high expectations that cause you stress.
How to say no
First, ask, “How are we going to do this?”
This question can help you avoid unreasonable demands and remind others to take a second look at what they’re asking and whether it’s doable.
Say “Let me think about it” instead.
Especially if you feel like you’ve been put on the spot, buy yourself some time and think about whether saying “yes” will do you more harm than good. Also, by asking for time to think first, you can give the matter more consideration and avoid acting on impulse.
Remember to keep it simple.
Saying a simple “no” is much more powerful than giving a hundred excuses. You don’t need to explain your reasons for saying no in great detail, and you don’t need to make up excuses for others’ validation. Just give your reasons confidently and, of course, courteously.
Build mutual respect.
Don’t leave others hanging. If you can’t give the answer they want, be direct about it. Don’t give them false hopes. Tell them that you appreciate their offer very much, but unfortunately have other obligations at present.