Saying “No” When You’re Expected to Say “Yes”

As demands on our time continue to increase, the pressure to say “Yes” continues to build.  Every “Yes” adds up, depleting us of any time for rest and relaxation. So the question is—how can we learn how to say “No,” when we’re expected to say, “Yes”?  After all, we want to be liked; we want to be considered amiable and helpful.  So saying “No” feels wrong.  We worry about making someone mad.  Or disappointing someone.  Or, if we try to delegate, someone else will mess things up.  Or let’s face it—sometimes, we just want to do it all ourselves, so we get the credit.  And sometimes, we want to say “No,” are afraid to, so we make up excuses to get out a request.  Of course, then worry we’ll accidentally tell on ourselves later.

The simple truth is this—we can’t do it all. No matter how much we want to believe we can, it’s impossible to please everyone 100% of the time.  To try to do so only sets you up for failure (and an ulcer).

Learning to how to say “No” isn’t going to mean you lose friends.  It means you care enough about yourself to establish some boundaries.  Make 2019 your year to say no.  It’s a healthy way to start balancing your time in a productive way.  And if you want to embrace the “No”-word, here’s a mantra you’ll have to embrace: “Being busy does not equal being productive.”

Productivity has to include some downtime.  There’s a reason why humans were made with a need to sleep at night.  Our bodies have to rest in order to work.

With all that said, here are some tips for employing the word “No” in your 2019 vocabulary:

  • Just say ‘No” without excuses. You honestly don’t have to offer explanations.  And doing so only adds to the self-imposed guilt you have to learn to get over, so keep it simple.
  • Avoid saying, “I can’t.” That opens up the door for possible negotiations and establishes a framework of regret in the words.
  • Present an alternative solution to doing the work/project yourself.
  • Make appointments with yourself to do nothing. Or to take a bubble bath.  Or to read a magazine.  Whatever it is, block off some time on your calendar for nothing-time. Even if all you do is stare at a wall, that’s fine.  It’s downtime, and it counts.
  • Understand that refusing to do something isn’t an outright rejection. For instance, if you’re expected to lead up the annual bake sale, but you just can’t do it—say “No,” but still attend.  And you can give lavish kudos to the person who did take on the project!  They may be thrilled you stepped aside and gave them the opportunity!

Saying “No” gives you the warm fuzzies.  You’ll feel great about yourself.  Not that you need to gloat about it or be a jerk when you say “No,” but you’ll likely feel a little inner smugness that you didn’t cave to “Yes.”

Learning how to say “No” is an opportunity to give you some breathing room in life, and to begin to enjoy little moments more often. Say it; say it as often as you need to in order to get your time management and life/balance under control.



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