Nowadays if you ask someone, how are they doing?, over 95% of them will tell you that they are either doing well and are busy or busy or way too busy. Staying busy is the mantra of almost every person I meet. Busy is a badge people wear to signify that their work is important and they are in demand. However, the primary reason behind this might be that they are unable to say NO when needed.
Most people struggle to say no when needed. Part of it is because people love to please others while the other part is due to the anger and disappointment from the other person to hearing NO. A part of our child raising custom is to teach the kids to pretty much never say NO. The remaining reluctance to say NO comes from either not getting enough attention or trying to please others. Most people say YES because they fear NO will not be taken kindly by the other person who is at the receiving end.
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Why don’t we learn to say NO?
We are not used to saying no
No is a simple word, made of just two letters. However, using this word is hard for most people. Most of us feel it’s wrong to say NO. So instead we land up saying yes, sure, of course etc. even if we might be feeling just the opposite.
When you constantly say yes , you invite more work to your schedule. It may be impossible to handle so much of work, but since you cannot say NO, you make do anyway you can. Such actions not only increase your work burden, it also leads to work stress, increased levels of anxiety about meeting deadlines and overall has a very negative effect on your mental health.
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Related post: How to cope with depression naturally?
Why is saying NO so hard?
If you feel that you are having a hard time learning to say NO, you are not alone. Most people say YES just to avoid the discomfort of saying NO. As social creatures humans try to preserve their relationships. This is the primary reason behind the inability to say NO.
Our past dictates our behavior
In most cases, during the growing up stages kids are not allowed to say NO or advocate for themselves. It is commonly believed that whatever the parents are doing, it is keeping their kids welfare in mind. Therefore, kids are encouraged to say YES and just follow instructions. By the time the kids grow up, saying YES gets incorporated in their nature and saying NO becomes just as hard.
Learn to say NO. It’s good
We all must learn to say NO. It is not impossible or hard. With a little practice and perseverance you will learn to say NO and take better care of your mental health. To be honest, if you learn to say NO, it will be the best gift you can give yourself.
When you learn to say NO, you
- Create slot in your busy schedule to recharge and get some rest
- Engage in activities of your choice
- Place boundaries with colleagues and loved ones
Learning to say NO allows us to navigate our lives better. It allows us to build a meaningful and fulfilling life based on our terms.
Learn to say no: when
It is easy to say YES when you don’t know or are not aware of what you want. At other times you may not have enough courage to say NO to the other person.
Most people struggle with when to say NO. To understand when saying NO is the best option, ask yourself the following questions before you decide to say yes.
- If you say yes, will it hinder your plan to spend the time doing something which might be more important or fulfilling?
- Does the yes go along with your goals, beliefs and values?
- Will saying yes lead to more burnout or tiredness?
- Will saying yes help you work your mental health?
- If you did not have to worry about the feelings of the other person, would you still say yes?
- Is there a chance that you may regret saying yes later on?
Answering these questions will resolve you conflict and you will know exactly whether you want to say YES or NO.
Take help of a therapist to learn to say NO
If you are finding it hard to say NO on your own, you should take the help of a therapist. A therapist will help you navigate through the feelings which are associated with saying NO and help you understand that it is completely okay to NO when you cannot commit to the task.
Just say it
If you know you won’t be able to commit to the task, just say NO. Do not beat around the bush or give excuses. Their is no compulsion to give an explanation. However, if you wish, a small explanation will do. The lesser said, the better.
Your NO should come through as a NO. It should not come through as a maybe. Be polite but get your NO through.
Learn to say NO nicely
It is possible to politely decline someone’s request. You can learn to say NO but in a manner which does not hurt the other persons feelings. It is possible to be appreciative, humble, kind and yet say NO.
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Learn to say NO with clarity
Being clear is the best route to take when saying NO to others requests. If your NO is full of uncertainty, doubts or is confusing, you might get bombarded with the other persons demands or questions.
Your uncertain NO might make others think, you want more suggestions or are trying to negotiate.
Learn to say NO in a clear manner so that their is NO confusion in the mind of the other person. It should not come across as a maybe by any chance.
Related post: Use art therapy to help deal with PTSD
Some polite ways of clearly saying NO
- Sorry, but I’ll pass on your offer
- I’m so sorry, but I cannot make it
- Unfortunately, it won’t be possible.
- Thank you, but this won’t work for me, I cannot do that
Some wrong ways of saying NO ( avoid such phrases)
- I don’t know
- I am not sure
- Maybe I can manage but I cannot be sure right now
Learn to say NO with gratitude
Sometimes your may have to say NO to a person who means a lot to you. You feel sincerely grateful that they thought of you during their time of need but you are unable to help. It is understandable that you will feel bad for saying NO under such circumstances.
- In such situations, stand your ground and say NO, but extend your gratitude to the other person a well:
- I am so glad you thought of me, but I am so sorry, it won’t be possible.
- I’m truly honored but I will have to decline
- I really appreciate you asking me but I’m sorry.
- I’m grateful to you for counting on me. Unfortunately this time I cannot deliver
- How about I take a rain check this time? I will try my best to make it up next time.
Give a small explanation as to why you are saying NO (not compulsory)
The aim here is to learn to say NO but not hurt the other persons feelings either. You can always accompany your NO with a small explanation so they know why you are declining. However one important point to not here is that you should try and keep the explanation short
- I really appreciate you inviting me. However, I have had an extremely busy week and would like to use the weekend to unwind a little.
- Thank you so much for asking. However, my slot is completely full for the week. Maybe we can plan this activity sometime later?
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Learn to say NO with an alternative (whenever possible)
It may happen that you really want to say YES. However, the timing of the task is not right for you. Under such conditions, it is best to say NO but offer an alternative as well, so that their is less risk of losing out on that opportunity in future.
- Thank you so much for me to be on your upcoming podcast. However, I am afraid, I will have to pass as I do not want to conduct interviews while working on my book. However, feel free to ping me in September. I will be happy to be a part of your podcast then.
Say NO while offering another option
You can say NO while providing the other option. This way the relationship won’t get strained and the person will have the option of approaching another person for their task.
- I am grateful that you invited me to give a talk at your upcoming event. However I must decline since I am out of the city on that date. However, here are a few of my colleagues who might be interested. Feel free to reach out to them.
What to do when MAYBE might be the correct option
Sometimes you might not be sure whether to go with a NO or a yes. You might reschedule your tasks to make time for the opportunity. However, you cannot give a commitment. What to do in such scenarios?
Under such conditions, the best up option is to think the things through before you make a decision. Take a deep calming breath. Chalk out the negative and positive outcomes of taking part or not taking part and then take a decision.
Understand the tactics of others
Most people tend to manipulate others either knowingly or unknowingly. Sometimes people won’t give you an option to say NO. If you decline, the other person may give you other options but not the option to say NO.
- It’s okay if you cannot make it tomorrow. However, the slots are available for Wednesday and Friday. When should I book you?
Ping the question back to the person who asked
This is a great option in an office environment. If your boss gives you multiple tasks to do and you know you are hard pressed for time, you can throw the question back to your boss in the following manner
- I will need three weeks time to finish all the tasks as I want to do a perfect job with them. However, if you need any of them to be done earlier, please let me know so I can finish it before the others.
This way you are letting your boss decide what work should be done when.
Learn to say NO with a firm attitude
By the time you have decided to say NO, you probably have spent enough time thinking about the problem. Despite of saying NO if the other person is not accepting your decision, it is time to reanalyze your relationship. This person probably does not respect you or is not a true friend. You should not feel compelled to do something just because the other person is forcing you to
Being selfish is okay when it comes to your mental health. Place your needs first. If you need time to relax, take it. If you prioritize others needs over your own, not only will your productivity suffer, you will also start to feel resentment towards the other person.
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Related post: How to deal with grief? 11 strategies
Learn to say NO today so you can have a stress free tomorrow. Even though saying NO might not be as easy as it sounds, it can reduce your everyday stress and allow you to put your time and focus on things which truly matter to you.
You should not feel guilty about taking care of your mental health. Your personal life is only your business, not someone else’s.
One thing to remember here is that when you say NO, you are not being mean. Those who care for you and understand you will respect your decision and won’t force you after you say NO. However, those who force you to do something even after you have said NO, they probably don’t belong in your life anyway.
Learn to say NO in a good way. This will help you practice self care, proper prioritization and organization in your life.
See you in my next blog post
Frequently asked questions
Why should you learn to say NO?
Saying NO allows you to prioritize your mental health and take time off when needed. It also helps you establish healthy boundaries and allows you to gain clarity regarding what others expect from you.
What are the five ways to say NO?
There are many ways to say NO like…
- Thank you, but I am so sorry I can’t…
- I am honored but I won’t be able to…
- Thank you for inviting me. I am grateful. Unfortunately in won’t be able to…
- I am sorry, this won’t be possible…
- I wish I could but at the moment it is not possible…
What does learning to say NO mean?
As simple as it sounds, a lot of people struggle to say NO to others. They fear that their NO might disappoint others and hurt their expectations. What they don’t understand is that by saying NO you are prioritizing your mental health. Those who know you will understand your reasons behind saying NO and will respect them.