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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

Why We Say What We Won’t Do (but Still Say It Anyway)

Why We Say What We Won’t Do (but Still Say It Anyway)

Every day we say a lot about what we want and will do.

“I want to pet a cat.”

“I want to buy a house for my parents.”

“I don’t want to be single anymore.”

“I will love you no matter what.”

“I will work harder in the future.”

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    It’s easy to make plans for the future. And we make resolutions all the time. Consider that a full 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February.[1] And that a vast majority of relationships (plus many marriages) end as well with break-ups or divorce. The best intentions and the best-laid plans generally speaking end in failure.

    No one intended to lie

    In general, people make these kinds of promises or resolutions with the best intentions. They don’t want to fail; if anything, they want desperately to be right, to improve themselves, and to make their friends and family happy. So even if a resolution doesn’t work out, when they utter them, it’s far from a lie.

      People often speak without thinking. They say what comes to mind, but without really thinking it through. And what usually comes to mind is wishful thinking – the ideal result, not what’s possible and practical. It’s tempting to fantasize about a beautiful and perfect future: a good romantic relationship, to have the approval and respect of your parents, and to have a successful career.

      But how to get what you want is not always clear to you in the moment you utter it. It’s hard to see beyond just the easy, idealized image. The challenges you may come across, the disappointments and sadness you may face – none of that is anywhere to be seen in a daydreaming mind.

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      Wishful thinking often end in crushing disappointment

      The problem is this. Wishful thinking and fantasies will only end in disappointment if you don’t follow through. You disappoint your friends, your family, your boss, and – most importantly – yourself. This can really take a toll on your own psyche and sense of self-worth.

            At a personal level, you’ll have so many unfulfilled dreams and goals. This is an incredibly common situation for people everywhere. As a teenager, you might have dreamed of what your life would be like as an adult: happily married and with a successful and high-earning career by the time you’re 25. But these are two seriously challenging goals that take planning and effort. Many people find themselves alone and in a dead-end job – rather than a career – wondering where they went wrong.

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                On an interpersonal level, making empty promises is hurtful and damaging to relationships. Friendship and healthy family relationships are built on trust. People who want to be your friend take you at your word and expect you to follow through. If you tell your friends that you’ll “be there for them,” but never pick up the phone, they will be hurt and no longer want to hang out. The same is true for family or even professional relationships. You might find it tempting to tell your boss that you’ll finish a major project “by the end of the week,” without considering whether this is plausible. If you are unable to complete the task in the timeframe that you set, it’s not easy to regain your boss’s trust.

                Keep what you want to yourself

                It’s vital to be clear about what you want. Notice when people around you are prone to saying “I want ___” and “I don’t want ____.”

                Kids are very prone to saying all their wants out loud, partly because they don’t have the independence and resources to get it themselves. This is why children and young people are often vague about what they want in the future. They have lots of wants without a concrete plan on how to get them.

                This is one of the challenges of being an adult. As you gain the practical ability to provide for yourself, and as you learn from your mistakes, it’s more and more important to be clear about how you plan to get what you want.

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                  Practice visualizing plans to attain your goals. For example, you might want a pet – everyone shares pictures of their dogs and cats on Instagram! But before you go out to adopt one at the shelter, make sure you visualize all the things you have to do to take care of your pet. Pet-ownership involves: cleaning up after it, house-training it, taking it to the vet, walking it, buying it food, and making sure that it gets plenty of stimulation and exercise.

                  If you want or need a car, think about how much you need to save to purchase the car, the cleaning and maintenance costs, how to pay for regular car insurance, parking costs, et cetera.

                    If you really want something, don’t just say it. Plan for it and do it. Create conditions that make what you want inevitable. Do small things consistently and make it a habit. You’ll amaze yourself and your friends if you constantly work on attaining your goals. Read more about how to follow through your goals here: Why I Can Be the Only 8% of People Who Reach the Goal Every Single Time

                    It’s easy to make or break promises. Set yourself apart from others by being reliable, deliberate, and thoughtful. Match your intentions with planning and action, and you’ll find that you’re happier with yourself and that your relationships are enriched.

                    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

                    Reference

                    More by this author

                    Brian Lee

                    Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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                    Last Updated on January 24, 2021

                    How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

                    How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

                    Do you say yes so often that you no longer feel that your own needs are being met? Are you wondering how to say no to people?

                    For years, I was a serial people pleaser[1]. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time, especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

                    But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

                    It took a long while, but I learned the art of saying no. Saying no meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. When that happened, I became a lot happier.

                    And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

                    The Importance of Saying No

                    When you learn the art of saying no, you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

                    In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

                    Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey, considered one of the most successful women in the world, confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything.

                    Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

                    Warren Buffett views “no” as essential to his success. He said:

                    “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

                    When I made “no” a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success, focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

                    How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

                    It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say no.

                    From an early age, we are conditioned to say yes. We said yes probably hundreds of times in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work, to get a promotion, to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

                    We say yes because we feel good when we help someone, because it can seem like the right thing to do, because we think that is key to success, and because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist.

                    And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

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                    At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we are feeling bad that we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

                    The message, no matter where we turn, is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

                    How Do You Say No Without Feeling Guilty?

                    Deciding to add the word “no” to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say no, but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of no that you could finally create more time for things you care about.

                    But let’s be honest, using the word “no” doesn’t come easily for many people.

                    3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

                    1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

                    Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time, especially you haven’t done it much in the past, will feel awkward. Your comfort zone is “yes,” so it’s time to challenge that and step outside that.

                    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 you want to learn how to say no, remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it: who else knows about all of the demands in your life? No one.

                    Only you are at the center of all of these requests. You are the only one that understands what time you really have.

                    3. Saying No Means Saying Yes to Something That Matters

                    When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else that we may care more about. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

                    6 Ways to Start Saying No

                    Incorporating that little word “no” into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

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                    1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

                    One of the biggest challenges to saying no is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no will reflect poorly on you?

                    Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty 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 ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

                    Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better[2].

                    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.

                    Keep in mind that saying no can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way.

                    You might disappoint someone initially, but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can 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 clearly. The message can be open and honest[3] to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

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                    How do you say no? 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

                      Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But 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 need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

                      6. Consider How to Use a Modified No

                      If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” as this will give you an opportunity 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.

                      Final Thoughts

                      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 as a way 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 find yourself much happier.

                      More Tips on How to Say No

                      Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

                      Reference

                      [1] Science of People: 11 Expert Tips to Stop Being a People Pleaser and Start Doing You
                      [2] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Tips to Get Over Your FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out
                      [3] Cooks Hill Counseling: 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

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