Do you find it difficult to say no to other people?
Do you end up pushing your limits instead of saying no to people?
Some people find themselves unable to refuse others. Whenever someone has a request, they’ll say yes, and part of this is because they do not know how to say no. The other part comes from not wanting to disappoint others.
However, while saying yes seems like a ready solution, it’s not necessarily the best answer all the time. Just like saying no has implications, NOT saying no has implications, too, including the following below.
Table of Contents
- How to Say No and Why It's Important
- Why Do We Feel Guilty When We Say No?
- How To Say No Without Feeling Guilty?
- 10 Ways to Get You Started To Say No
- 1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter
- 2. Resist The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
- 3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means To Say No
- 4. When the Request Comes In, Sit on It
- 5. Communicate Your "No" With Transparency and Kindness
- 6. Consider How To Use a Modified Version Of "No"
- 7. Realize That Saying No Is Okay
- 8. Use The Medium You're Most Comfortable With
- 9. Keep It Simple
- 10. Be Respectful
- Final Thoughts
How to Say No and Why It’s Important
When you say no, you may also be implying the following:
- When you say yes to something you don’t enjoy, you say no to things that you love
- When you say yes to a job you don’t love, you say no to your dreams
- When you say yes to someone you don’t like, you say no to a fulfilling relationship
- When you say yes to working overtime, you say no to your social life
Learning to say ‘no’ to others when necessary has significantly helped me in life. Without doing that, I would never have been able to have time to start my personal development business, write hundreds of articles on my blog, coach my 1-1 clients, grow my business, spend time with my friends and family, and live the life I love today.
It’s an ongoing process to learn how to say no, and it can be easy to tough to get started. But as long as you realize the importance of saying no, you’re on your way there.
Here are some of my tips on how to say no to people—they will come in handy whether you’re saying no to your boss, a friend, a colleague, a family member, or a stranger. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with saying no – it’s about learning to say no.
Why Do We Feel Guilty When We Say No?
Most of us are insecure about relationships and do not want to jeopardize that relationship by saying “no,” which is where the guilt comes from.
Even if we have to put ourselves in misery, it is bearable as long as we can make our loved ones happy.
Similarly, we feel responsible for other people’s reactions. You feel guilty about saying “no” since you feel responsible as to how other people are going to react to your “no.”
Studies have also shown that most people are incapable of saying ‘no’ because they fear conflict, confrontation, and disappointing others.
So the important question is: how to overcome this guilt?
How To Say No Without Feeling Guilty?
Deciding to add the word “no” to your toolbox is no small thing. Psychologists believe that the inability to say “no” is an evolutionary defense against predatory behaviors.
The key here is to recognize these psychological traps in your brain, overcome them, and learn to stand up for yourself.
Here are three golden rules that can help you learn to say “no” without feeling guilty:
1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Your comfort zone is “yes,” so it’s time to challenge and step outside.
Setting boundaries for yourself and prioritizing your time will feel awkward, especially if you haven’t done it much in the past.
If you need help getting out of your comfort zone, check out this article.
2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time
When learning how to say no, remember that you are the only one who understands the demands of your time.
Think about it: who else knows about all your life’s demands? No one.
Only you are at the center of all of these requests. You are the only one that understands how much time you have and what priorities you should offer to things in your life.
3. Saying No Means Saying Yes to Something That Matters
When we decide not to do something, we say “yes” to something else we may care more about. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.
Therefore, instead of claiming “I can’t say no to anyone,” learn to fight for your own time and do things that matter.
10 Ways to Get You Started To Say No
Incorporating that little word “no” into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what matters.
Here is how you can say “no” to others and prioritize your time for yourself.
1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter
One of the biggest challenges to saying no is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel responsible for saying yes and worry that saying no will reflect poorly on you?
Ask yourself whether you truly have to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.
2. Resist The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because of FOMO, even while we aren’t enjoying the fun.
Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you want to say yes? More often, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better.
3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means To Say No
Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say ‘yes’ because we worry about how others will respond or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose their respect. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.
Remember that saying no can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time.
You might disappoint someone initially, but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need to give freely of yourself when you truly want to. And it will often help others have more respect for you and your boundaries, not less.
4. When the Request Comes In, Sit on It
Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.
Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say no. There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.
5. Communicate Your “No” With Transparency and Kindness
When you are ready to tell someone “no,” communicate your decision. The message can be open and honest to ensure the recipient that your reasons are due to your limited time.
Resist the temptation of not responding or communicating without thinking, “I can’t say no to anyone.” But, at the same time, do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying “no.”
Clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and must be careful when allocating my time. I will sometimes say I appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises again.
6. Consider How To Use a Modified Version Of “No”
If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes, but…” as this will allow you to condition your agreement to what works best for you.
Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task, but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.
7. Realize That Saying No Is Okay
Saying no is okay.
We keep thinking that it’s not okay, that the other person will feel bad, that we’re being evil, that people will be angry, that we’re being rude, etc.
While these stem from good intentions in us, the thing is, most of these fears are self-created. If the person is open-minded, they will understand why you are saying no.
There have been past situations where I did not know how to say no to people because I was afraid that they would be disappointed or that they would be unhappy, and bridges would be burned.
And while it took me time to convey the message, nothing bad happened from saying no.
Saying no is okay, and it’s part and parcel of life. People say yes and no all the time every day in this world. You’re not the only person saying no to someone else. So don’t worry about it. Being respectful in your communication is more important.
8. Use The Medium You’re Most Comfortable With
Use the appropriate medium to communicate the message: face-to-face, instant messaging, emailing, SMS, phone call, or others. There is no one best medium because I’ve used different mediums before, depending on the context and your relationship with the person.
9. Keep It Simple
Keep it simple. Let the person know that you can’t do it, and give a short explanation of why you’re saying no.
Sometimes a simple “No, it’s okay,” “I’m sorry it doesn’t meet my needs at the moment,” “I have other priorities, and I can’t work on this at the moment,” or “Perhaps next time” work just fine.
There’s no need to over-explain as it’s not relevant for the party anyway, and it might lead to the other party trying to challenge your stance instead when all you want to do is to communicate a message of “No, thank you.”
If there are certain things that you’re open to discussing/negotiating, put them up for discussion.
10. Be Respectful
One reason people wonder, “why can’t I say no to people” is that they think that saying no is disrespectful. However, it’s about how you say it rather than the act of saying no. Be respectful in your reply, value the other party’s stance, and you’ll be all fine.
Simple Tip to Help You Say No With Ease
Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot, where you might normally say yes.
Use the request to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself.
Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project, but not by working all weekend. You’ll start realizing the benefits of saying no and find yourself much happier.
Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com
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