Many of us are living lives that are busier than ever, but still we take on more responsibilities and attend more activities, simply because we struggle with how to say no.
Does this sound familiar? If so, read on!
It can be at work, in our social lives, even within our family. These requests come from all sorts of directions. We want to be helpful, to be a good friend, to be a great parent, so we say yes.
But we don’t always want to.
Sometimes we already have too many things on the go with impending deadlines.
Sometimes we need an early night at home.
Sometimes we just want to the time to work out at the gym.
For some reason, we put ourselves last. And the result is we never get the time for ourselves that we want (and need.)
You know what they say during the flight safety announcement: fit your own oxygen mask first. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t able to take care of those that need you.
What Happens When We Say Yes All The Time
We might think we’re being nice when we say ‘yes’ for someone else’s benefit. But there are negative consequences to keep in mind.
Saying yes when we don’t really want to can cause us stress. Piling on to an already busy schedule to fit one more thing in will increase anxiety and cause overwhelm as we work to squeeze it all in.
When we give a ‘yes’ that we don’t really mean, the long-term result is often resentment.
While you might think you’re doing the right thing for the relationship in question, in the long run the effect is more likely to be detrimental. You might hold onto those negative feelings of having to do something you don’t want to do and this will create distance in your relationship.
(If this is something you deal with, read this post on how to let go of negative emotions!)
Negatively Impact Important Relationships
When we take on too much, there is often a price to pay. Aside from our own health and well-being, we usually end up putting pressure on the relationships that are most important to us.
It might mean being less present or available to our kids. Perhaps we get less time to spend with our partner. For some reason, we tend to make sacrifices in the relationships that are most important to us, for the sake of less important associations.
We Sacrifice Our Own Goals
For those of us who often find ourselves saying yes (when we want or need to say no), we do so to the detriment of our own personal goals.
When we give ourselves a lower priority than others, we are less likely to do the things that we might think of as non-essential – like working out, spending time on a hobby, or simply having some downtime.
We need to remember that those ‘non-essential’ activities ARE important.
They allow us to remain mentally and physically healthy, to perform the functions that are required of us (going to work, caring for our family) and get some enjoyment out of this brief time we have that is called life.
Reasons We Say Yes When We Should Say No
There are many reasons why some of us feel the need to say yes to others, even when it’s to our detriment. Some of the biggest ones are:
We genuinely want to help out – we get pleasure from helping others.
We’re afraid of causing offence or hurting someone’s feelings.
We have a fear conflict.
5 Tips To Remember When You Need To Say No
It’s true, there might be times when we just have to do things for others, even though it’s not really how we want to spend our time. That’s OK – the occasional sacrifice is not what we’re talking about here.
It’s when we do this consistently and with negative consequences to ourselves and our loved ones that we need to learn how to say no.
1. Know That It’s OK To Say No
In these situations, we shouldn’t feel guilty about saying no. We have our own lives and families that we’re responsible for, and there should be no guilt in putting those needs first.
When you say no without being weighed down with your feelings of guilt, it’s easier to be clear and confident in your response, and not create any awkwardness.
Be true to yourself and act with integrity – people will like you more for it. If your decision to say no affects a friendship, then the chances are that this wasn’t a sincere relationship to start with.
2. Don’t Over-Explain
While it’s OK to give an explanation with your ‘no’, don’t feel like you have to justify your actions.
When we try to justify, we tend to over-explain and make the situation more uncomfortable than it needs to be. Aside from that, there have been times when I’ve been in the process of saying no, and through my over-explaining end up talking myself out of the no and end up saying yes.
If you’re following point 1. above, you’ll be less likely to over-explain.
3. Be Polite But Firm
It is possible to be firm in your response without being rude – if you’ve not done this before it might take some practice. What you’ll soon learn though is that you’ll gain the respect of others when they know where they stand with you. When you do say yes, they’ll know that you are fully committed and happy in whatever it is you’re participating in.
Here’s some examples:
“I’m really touched that you’d think of me for the school committee, but I don’t have any spare time right now. I hope you find someone who can give it the attention it deserves.”
“Thanks for inviting me, but I really don’t enjoy bowling. I hope you have fun.”
“Sorry, I can’t make it!”
“No, I won’t be able to.”
Sometimes short and sweet is all you need.
4. Buy Yourself Time If Needed
Sometimes we’re put on the spot with a request, and we end up saying yes out of a lack of anything else to say. Don’t hesitate to ask for some time to think about it so you can decide what makes most sense for you.
This will also allow you to formulate a response you feel comfortable with.
“Thanks for asking me! Let me think about how that will fit into what we’ve got going on – I’ll get back to you.”
“I’ll need to check my agenda at home – I’ll call you tomorrow and let you know.”
[Side note – if you don’t want to be rude, be sure to provide your response in a timely fashion, and again – be clear and direct about it.]
5. Know That Time Is A Precious Gift
When you think about it, time is the most precious commodity we have in life. There’s no way to buy more of it, so we need to spend it carefully.
Keep your goals at the forefront of your mind, and when you’re faced with a request, think about how saying yes will affect those priorities.
Those goals might be in your career, your family, your own self-development or your mental health. It doesn’t matter what they are, it’s your life and you only have one of it.
Once you get practice saying no, you’ll be amazed at how easy it can be. You’ll find that you’ll have the energy and focus to say yes to the things that are important to you – what a gift!