Learning the Importance of Saying No
by Merryl Lentz
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It's only a two-letter word. It's small and simple. Tiny, even. Microscopic. Yet it's sometimes one of the hardest words to say in the English language. It's the word "no." But there are times when saying "yes" to the word "no" can be profoundly liberating, and can assist you in staying true to yourself and your connection to the Divine.
We constantly say yes when we really want to say no because we want others to be happy. We don't want to let them down. We want them to like us. We don't want to hurt their feelings. We're afraid of alienating people. We want to be nice.
But we shouldn't do it at the sacrifice of our own happiness or freedom. There's a difference between being nice and being a doormat. Author Duke Robinson says, "Saying yes when you need to say no causes burnout. You do yourself and the person making the request a disservice by saying yes all of the time."
Don't worry that you'll displease God by saying no to people. God won't consider us selfish, thoughtless, disrespectful or sinful if we say the occasional no when our boundaries are overstepped if we're being taken advantage of -- or if we're sick or just plain don't have time to spare.
The secret to saying no is all in the way that you say it. If you present it in a way that's kind and respectful, that's much more effective than simply blurting it out. For example, if you're asked to do a favor, but you're pressed for time, you could say, "I'd really like to help out, but unfortunately, I've already made plans for that day. Maybe we can reschedule for another day," instead of a plain, "Heck, no!"
If you never say no, people get accustomed to you being a "yes-person." They may automatically assume that anything they ask of you will gladly be granted. In a sense, you've trained them to expect you to always make yourself available, to always be easygoing and accommodating, and to always say yes, no matter how outrageous the requests become. People may get to the point where they're unintentionally taking advantage of your good nature since you've accustomed them to always getting a yes from you.
So how do you change a yes to a no?
First, admit to yourself that you're not Superman or Superwoman, and if you say yes to everyone, you may end up ensnared with no time left for yourself. If you've said yes to your boss to pitch in on a project, yes to a friend who wants you to help her shop for a new party dress, and yes to someone who needs help putting up shelves in their house, you've spread yourself way too thin.
Acknowledge to yourself that you have commitments in your life that need time and attention, as well -- and that are important to you -- and it's not possible to say yes to everyone when you're busy, yourself. Or even if you just need some private downtime to kick back and relax -- it's perfectly okay to say no.
One of the main reasons people can't bring themselves to say no without guilt is that they think they're being selfish for refusing people who need their help. They feel selfish for allowing more time for themselves. But think of it this way -- a selfish person would only be looking out for Number One, and wouldn't feel the slightest bit of guilt about turning down someone.
If you've helped out this person before, and now they accuse you of being selfish for not helping them now, maybe it's best to sever ties with that person. A little trick is to remind yourself of all the times you've previously said yes to people -- that's not something a selfish person ever does. You're a good person. You're not selfish.
To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, realize that you can't please everyone all the time. People-pleasers generally don't get treated reciprocally. You must lay out boundaries in your life, and stand by them so that people will respect them -- and respect you. If you're worried that you'll let someone down if you say no and lose their respect, you're worrying for nothing. Actually, the exact opposite is true. If someone assumes you'll say yes to every single request, they may be inclined to take advantage of you and ask you for countless favors, with no regard for your own personal time or wellbeing.
When you're saying no to certain things, that actually translates into a yes to other things for yourself. Confusing? By saying no, you're saying yes to things that will positively impact your life.
You're giving a yes to having more quality time with family, friends, and loved ones, as opposed to doing something you really don't want to do. You're saying yes to staying sane, and for maintaining time for the pastimes that are significant to you. You're saying yes to living life in a more spacious, relaxed manner that's focused upon things that are meaningful to you -- not to someone else. And by saying the occasional no at work, you're actually saying yes to having a more manageable workload, instead of one that overwhelms you.
Be on the lookout for tactics that some people will resort to in order to get a yes out of you. They may bully you by unkindly or aggressively insisting that you do their bidding. In this case, the trick is to keep your composure and not be intimidated into saying yes.
Other people will whine by continually complaining about how difficult something is until you actually agree to pitch in without being asked. Attempt to change the subject, avoid that person for a while or just sympathize with the hard time they're having without caving and offering to help.
There are also people who will try inducing guilt by accusing you of never helping and never coming through when they're in a tight spot. You need to remind this person of the times that you actually did help out, and that this is an exception.
A very sneaky way to manipulate you into helping is by complementing you on how smart you are or how well you can do something, and then saying that those talents would come in handy for helping them out. Beware of this type of flattery and don't give in to it.
How should you say no? Stay calm, and be firm and clear. If you allow emotion, confusion or anger to tint your voice, the person may interpret that as weakness and try to use it to their advantage. If you sound calm and you sound reasonable, the person is much more likely to accept your refusal.
You can also use body language to assist you. Don't fidget, cringe away from the person or do anything that makes you look insecure, and therefore vulnerable for them to further pressure you. Stand straight and make eye contact to show you're not just saying no, but that you mean it.
Refrain from apologizing too much, since that will make you sound much less firm. A simple, "I'm sorry," will do just fine. Also, if you apologize too much, it makes you sound like you're doing something wrong by saying no. -- and you're not. Instead, briefly explain why you can't help out. You don't need to ramble on and on -- again, that makes you sound as though you feel guilty about turning them down. A sentence or two will do just fine.
Still plagued by guilt? Then offer some alternative suggestions about how or when the requested task can be done. This way, you're not completely turning down the other person. You're just offering other days or ways that could work out well for both of you.
"No" is such a little word -- but it can make a big difference in the quality of your life, and the way you're treated by others.
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