Do you find it hard to say no? Do you often find yourself agreeing to things and then wondering why you did so? Do you know that you want to say no, but find the words just won’t come out of your mouth?
If this is the case, you are not alone. Many people find it hard to say no; many people are brought up to think saying yes means you are flexible and giving and saying no is uncaring or cold. Like many things in life, it is all about balance. The problem arises when we don’t know how to say no at all. When we are always agreeing to pick up our friend’s kids from school as well as our own, when we are committing to being on another committee or saying yes to a night out we can’t afford because we don’t want our friend to have a strop! Saying no gets easier with practice and helps to reclaim time and energy as well as self respect!
1. Take Small Steps
If you are a people pleaser and find saying no difficult, the thought of doing it might bring you out in a rash! However, if you have identified that it could be beneficial to say no more often; being aware is a great first step. Notice when you feel inclined to say yes even when you don’t want to. You might notice that certain people or situations make it feel harder for you to say no. Start small and say no to one thing that you would normally say yes to. You can build up your no muscle in time but acknowledge your progress each time you say no and stay true to what you want to do or what you need.
2. Make No a Reflex
“Yes” used to be my automatic response to requests. This is where many of us get ourselves into trouble. Before we know it, we never have a minute to ourself; we are being pulled this way and that and have forgotten how to even say no. You may have become the “go-to” person for others when they are in a bind; it is like you have an invisible sign on your head saying “I will say yes, whatever the request”!
As you build up your confidence with saying no, it is worth making no your standard response. You can always change your mind later if you decide you really want to do something but it is important to guard your boundaries and get out of the habit of being a chronic yes person. It’s often the little requests (that usually end up being bigger than you anticipated) or obligations that sneak up on you. Be on your guard for requests on your time and energy. When you really want to do something, or feel that yes is the right response you will know. When you start reclaiming some of the time and energy you have been using for others, for yourself you will want to keep up the habit of good boundaries and being discerning about what you commit to.
3. Drop the Guilt
There is a lot of guilt and pressure surrounding the issue of saying no and this is often a carry over from childhood messages. We want to be caring and helpful but saying yes to everything and anything just ends up making us a doormat. It is important to drop this guilt and remind yourself that in fact saying no is a vital tool to use in managing your own sense of health and wellbeing. When we are on a plane we are told that in the event of an emergency, we must put our oxygen mask on first before we try and help anyone else. This is a good analogy for life. We need to learn how to take care of ourselves and our own needs to truly be able to help others.
4. Increase Your Self Esteem
Being a chronic yes person is often related to low self esteem. We keep saying yes for many reasons; we want people to like us, not to be upset with us, to think we’re a good person; but at what price? Your worth isn’t measured by how much you do for other people and it is important to be able to separate what you do for others from who you are. When we are chronic yes people, the people requesting our help often expect it and take it for granted. We keep saying yes to validate our sense of self but it makes no difference, we don’t feel our self respect and we don’t get it from others.
Saying no and setting boundaries helps to increase your self esteem. You become clearer about your own needs and know how to take care of them. You are no longer coerced into things you don’t want to do, just to keep others happy. You know you deserve time and energy for your own needs and feel confident about getting them.
5. Reap the Benefits
What would your life be like if you weren’t at the beck and call of everyone around you? Would you have time to start that novel you have always dreamed of writing? Maybe you would have more time with your children or with your partner. You could start that new exercise regime you have been promising yourself you would do. Every time we say yes to a request, it means saying no to something else. Remind yourself of this regularly, it is an important point! As you say no to requests, notice how it frees you up for something you really want to do.
6. Be Assertive
Be clear and assertive when saying no. Don’t over apologize or give excuses. The more you explain, the more opportunity there is for others to try and talk you round. Politely and clearly state what you can or cannot do and leave it as that. The people in your life who are used to you always saying yes will come around gradually. Stay true to yourself and practice getting in touch with what you need and asking for it.