“No.” Who thought that one word could be so difficult to say? While most of us are good at saying the opposite (“Yes”) we haven’t mastered the art of letting people down. Nobody likes to come across as rude or uncaring. We don’t want people to think that we can’t help them. We believe being a good person requires us to always be there for everyone else and never prioritize ourselves.
We wonder why we feel so resentful, angry, drained, and tired all of the time. We know that by not saying “No,” we are making ourselves unhappy but we still can’t seem to do it. Why is it so hard to let people down? How can we learn to stand up for ourselves without overexplaining or apologizing? Read ahead on the importance of saying no, along with some best practices.
Why We Need to Say No
We make sure to feed our children healthy food, while we sit and eat chips and a diet coke. We buy all of our friends presents, but can’t remember the last time we bought something for ourselves. We run countless errands but feel guilty asking our husband or wife to take out the trash. For some reason, we feel as though our time and needs are less important than others. Our inability to say no reflects this false belief system.
It’s critical to be able to say no so we can maintain healthy relationships with others. Saying no shows that we have certain boundaries that cannot be crossed. It also provides clarity as to what others should expect from you.
Many of us believe that others are the problem, and they abuse us because they are bad people. While nobody should take advantage of another person, we inadvertently allow it when we fail to put up healthy boundaries with others. If you’ve ever encountered an assertive person, you will notice that they are not afraid to enact boundaries and prioritize their time. There are simply certain things you know that you cannot ask this person to do.
This is because that individual has inadvertently taught you what you can expect from them, and what not to expect. They have taught you how to treat them, without you even knowing it! Conversely, our failure to say no teaches others that they are welcome to take advantage of us. We don’t mean to do this, but we do.
How to Say No
People pleasers have a hard time saying no, but it’s imperative that you start. With some practice and discipline, we can overcome our fears and learn to be more assertive. Here are some best practices.
· Just Say It – Stop overexplaining or apologizing. Simply say, “I’m sorry, I can’t.” There’s no need to go into what you need to do or why.
· Speak Assertively and Courteously – Assertive speech is not angry or authoritative. It is calm, concise, and to the point. Good eye contact and posture are also important. There’s no need to be rude or defensive.
· Understand Tactics – Other people who are used to you saying yes will be surprised at your sudden inability to do something. They may guilt trip you, egg you on or ask again later. Stand firm in your decision. Eventually, they will get the picture and back off.
· Reevaluate Friendships – A strong, healthy friendship will survive you saying no. If someone doesn’t want to be friends with you anymore because you can’t do a favor, then they aren’t meant to be your friend, to begin with.
· Prioritize Your Needs – Think about what you need to get done and how you want to feel by the end of the day. If you have time to help out a friend and genuinely want to, then review your schedule to see if it’s possible. Don’t squeeze in time to help someone who can help themselves. This will only make you feel angry and resentful.
· Practice Positive Self-Talk – Saying no requires a certain level of confidence and self-love. Tell yourself that you deserve to say no because you have important things to do. Remind yourself that your needs are just as important as anyone else’s. Furthermore, practice makes perfect. Practice saying no repeatedly and then use positive self-talk to overcome the unnecessary guilt and anxiety you feel afterward.
· Find Help – If it’s still hard to say no, find a therapist who can help. A therapist can drill down into your self-esteem issues and find the root cause of the inability to say no. He/she can also provide coping skills to make it easier to move forward. The inability to say no is typically a symptom of a larger problem. This may involve codependency, trauma, anxiety, or depression.
Do you struggle to say no even when you want to? Do you feel angry, resentful, frustrated, and tired? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org. One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.