I don’t know about you, but saying no to people has always been a struggle for me, up until a couple of years ago. A couple of years ago, I decided that I was going to start taking better care of myself, and learn how to make myself a priority. Making myself a priority meant that I had to start learning how to say “no”. It meant that I had to realize that other peoples’ emergencies didn’t automatically become my own. When I finally learned that, it allowed me to manage the guilt that I would feel when I couldn’t/wouldn’t help someone out, or be there live for support at an event or outing.
I come from a family of nine siblings, with ten nieces and nephews…not to mention my own three kids and husband. I was running myself rampant trying to make it to every event and celebration. But as you can imagine, I got tired, overwhelmed and had very little to no time for myself. So I had to put a stop to it. I did an interview where the topic was around saying no and managing self-care. The host of the show asked if I really say no even to my own mother? My response? YES! (followed by a “sorry mom”).
Why is it that so many of us (women in particular) have such a hard time telling others no? What exactly is it that we’re afraid of? The truth of the matter is that saying no is vital to our health and well-being. But until we can learn to say this word often and confidently (not say no, and then change our mind and say yes), we will continue to be stressed and overwhelmed with too much to do and not enough time. Can you relate to that? The irony of it is that it is usually our priorities (i.e. our goals, health, quality time with family or self-care) that suffers the most.
In order to gain control back over a part of your life that you may have lost, understand that there is a lot of power in the word no. No is a complete sentence, which I talk about in my new book. The older I get, the more I realize that time is sacred. My time is sacred. And I don’t want to waste time doing things that don’t serve me or my family. But I’ve come a long way because it hasn’t always been easy to turn down requests from family and friends. But it sure does get a lot easier.
Whether you’re trying to say “no” more often, or just trying to figure out how to say “yes” on your own terms, it’s imperative that you understand the importance of doing either one so you can gain back your power and sense of self. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed, sick or tired (or sick and tired), then it’s past time for you to say this one simple word: no (and say it with some gusto). I’m now to the point where I can say it with a smile on my face and mean it with all my (loving) heart.
“Setting personal boundaries is about protecting and caring for yourself. It’s about learning how to say ‘no’ to others, so you can say ‘yes’ to yourself.” —Christine K. St. Vil
So for those who may find themselves saying “yes” to others way more than they want to, here are four simple ways to turn that “yes” into a “no”.
1. Say, “let me check my schedule”. And then go back later and say no. This is specifically for those who literally cringe or have panic attacks at the thought of turning people down. This is a tactic I used a lot when I was trying to get comfortable with this simple two letter word. The key is to not allow yourself to be pressured into doing something you don’t want to do.
2. Say, “Sorry but I’m not available”. Nine times out of ten, you probably receive regular requests for assistance from the same people. So come up with your “no” now and have it prepared and ready for the next request. Yes, they will probably look at you crazy and try to challenge you, especially if they’re used to always getting a “yes”. But we teach people how to treat us, and sometimes we have to retrain those people, which takes time.
3. Say, “I would love to do that for you, but I just can’t do it right now. Maybe we can touch base again in a few weeks” (or months, whatever you’re most comfortable with). What this does, is it transfers the ownership away from you. It tells them that you want to help them but that their timing just isn’t right. You don’t have to explain yourself any further than that.
4. Say, “No, I can’t”. And then leave it at that. Sometimes the simplest, most direct way of saying no is best. Stop worrying about hurting other peoples’ feelings, letting people down, fearing conflict, or feeling like you’re going to burn bridges. The people that feel this way from a simple “no” clearly don’t have your best interest at heart.
One key thing to remember when you’re determining the best answer: when you decide to say “yes” to others, make sure you’re not saying “no” to yourself.
BMWK: What are some ways you turn people down so you can do the things you want to do?