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Stop Being a Pushover: Learn To Say No in 10 Steps

Stop Being a Pushover: Learn To Say No in 10 Steps

When I was a child, I never wanted to say no to anyone. I was so eager to please, I found myself agreeing to things I didn’t want to do with people I didn’t want to be around. By the time I graduated from high school, I realized I needed to take a stand and live my own life. I started by flaking out on things, and quickly realized that’s a terrible way to be. Instead I adjusted my perspective and took the steps necessary to learn to say no. Here are 10 steps you can take to stop being a pushover and learn to say no.

1. Prioritize your life

    You need to get your priorities straight immediately. What’s important to you? Write out a list of the 10 long-term goals you most want to accomplish in your life. This makes it easier to make decisions, because you’re basing them on your priorities. When you’re focused on your priorities, you’ll be too busy not to turn down offers.

    2. Envision a path

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      In HBO’s new show Silicon Valley, protagonist Richard Hendricks’ biggest problem is he doesn’t have a vision for his company. This lack of vision is the catalyst for the first season’s plotlines, as investors are excited by his technology, but they all demand to know his vision for the future before they’ll trust him. Series creator Mike Judge hit on an important point. You need a vision of your future in order to reach it.

      3. Stay succinct

        When telling someone no, simply saying no is enough. You don’t need to go any further into reasons why. Simply tell them you’re not interested. High pressure salespeople will prod for more information to keep you talking so they can sway you, but there’s no need to waste any time when you know you’re going to turn them down anyway. Instead of arming your opponent with knowledge, just say no.

        4. Repeat a mantra

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          When you have advanced warning that you’re going to be presented with an undesirable proposition, you have time to prepare yourself. Repeat over and over in your head that you are not going to ____. Even if you don’t have advanced notice, it’s not a bad idea to remind yourself of the things you don’t want to do every so often in case you are. Never forget yourself.

          5. Assert yourself

            Be assertive when telling someone no. If they push, assert your position. As a human being, you have the freedom of choice. Rather than relinquishing that power to someone else, exercise your right to choose your own adventure. At the end of the day, you’re the one that has to live with your decisions, so choose what’s right for you.

            6. Focus on the positive

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              Just because you’re rejecting someone doesn’t mean you have to be rude or cruel about it. There’s no need to tell someone you’re not interested because it’s a terrible idea. Tell them it sounds great, but you’re busy. When you focus on the positive aspects, you’ll maintain the appearance of friendliness while still pursuing your own agenda.

              7. Don’t fear the outcome

                The world won’t end if you tell someone no. They may or may not be upset with you, but it’s not your problem to worry about. Has anyone ever told you no? Did they hold your hand through the entire thing? If it’s not happening to you, you don’t need to do it for anyone else. We’re all adults, and we can handle rejection. Don’t fear rejecting anyone–focus on you.

                8. Avoid being defensive

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                  It can be easy to get on the defensive when rejecting someone. You may feel like you need to defend your stance, but you don’t. Once you’ve said no, it’s over; end of transaction. Don’t defend your choices to anyone. You don’t owe an explanation to anyone.

                  9. Stick to your guns

                    Once you’ve said no, stick to it. Don’t let yourself be persuaded. You don’t want people to think you’re a pushover; it’s viewed as a sign of weakness, and some unscrupulous person is bound to take advantage. Pick a lane and stick to it. You’ll be happier in the long run.

                    10. Practice

                      Like everything else in life, saying no requires practice. Start with little things, like the times you already say no. After you order at a restaurant, for example, they ask if there’s anything else you need. Your server will also come by the table a few times while you’re eating to ask if you need anything. You’re likely saying no to these people without even realizing it. Use that momentum to say no to others.

                      Featured photo credit: John Y via therecoveringpolitician.com

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                      Last Updated on July 17, 2019

                      The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

                      The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

                      What happens in our heads when we set goals?

                      Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

                      Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

                      According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

                      Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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                      Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

                      Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

                      The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

                      Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

                      So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

                      Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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                      One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

                      Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

                      Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

                      The Neurology of Ownership

                      Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

                      In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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                      But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

                      This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

                      Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

                      The Upshot for Goal-Setters

                      So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

                      On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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                      It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

                      On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

                      But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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                      Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

                      Reference

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