I have decided to write about this, because I think this problem is more common than we think, especially for those who are empathetic or nurturing. We just hate the thought of hurting someone else’s feelings. The truth is that learning how and when to say no is a true gift. Michael Hyatt wrote a very nice and useful list of what can happen if you don’t say no.
- Other peoples’ priorities will take precedence over ours.
- Mere acquaintances—people we barely know!—will crowd out time with family and close friends.
- We will not have the time we need for rest and recovery.
- We will end up frustrated and stressed.
- We won’t be able to say yes to the really important things.
The simple word “no” is often the most difficult to say. Yet anyone can develop the skills to say no with confidence, kindness, and peace of mind. And the benefits are enormous. You’ll spend less time doing things you don’t want to do with people you don’t want to see, and move closer to your own priorities and passions. Ultimately, “no” can be one of the most positive words in your vocabulary. Whether you crave more family time, more time for yourself, or more time to pursue a dream, saying no frees up room for the “yeses” in your life.
Of course we all have to do things we don’t want to do; that is just part of life. But so many people agree to do things they do not even have to do. And sometimes these things are big. If you find that you are spending your time participating in activities or arrangements that make you feel resentful, exhausted, or down on yourself, here are five ways to start cultivating the healthy habit of saying “no”:
Check in with your body
Your body is very wise and will often tell you if something isn’t right. For example when I am in a very stressful situation I tend to remain quite and I don’t react immediately. But later I suffer from very strong headaches and they last two or three days. During this period I can just rest and talk a little. See if you can tap into those signals your body is sending early on, and let that be your guide.
Ask yourself this question
Consciously ask yourself, “Do I really want to do this?” If the answer isn’t clear, you may want to consider writing about it as a way to think it through.
Take time before answering
Take all the time you want and need, because I am sure that your initial reaction to almost any request of me is a cheerful “sure!”
Start by saying no to little things
Before you find yourself in a therapist’s office wondering how you ended up in this marriage or that job or whatever city you are in, start by practicing saying “no” to small things first.
Don’t give elaborate excuses
Sometimes a no is just a no and you don’t have to find so many excuses. You have the right to say no and that’s all, even if you don’t explain it. You don’t need to justify or apologize!
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