Are you saying YES when you want to say NO? And what are some strategies to help you say no?
I am a recovering people-pleaser, so I know a thing or two about this impossible-to-say-no business. I was, and sometimes still find myself being, the YES woman.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s OKAY to say yes. It’s okay to take on tasks and do favours for others. All this is A-okay! The problem arises when we find ourselves doing these things because we feel we can’t, or don’t know how to, say no.
But, why is it so darn difficult to say that little two-letter word?
DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this blog is written from personal and lived experience. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace professional mental health services, medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health or mental health, you should always consult with a health-care professional.
# 1 – We fear people will not accept us if we say NO.
We want to be liked and accepted. That’s a pretty universal feeling. Who doesn’t want to be liked?
But, having someone “like” us because of something we can do for them is placing our value and worth on external factors. When we do this, we lose control of our own lives. We no longer live our truths. We begin to live for others, and not in a generous, healthy way either.
The fear is if we stopped being at someone’s beck and call, they wouldn’t accept us anymore. We would stop being friends, and we would be alone. That’s a scary concept.
And here’s the painful truth: There may be people in your life who will leave you once you no longer serve them. These people have you in their lives for the sole purpose of getting something from you. So, if you’re no longer giving them what they want, they don’t need you around. You are dispensable to them. These people don’t genuinely care about you or your well-being.
Tell me honestly, why the heck would you want these horrible humans in YOUR life, anyway? I would rather be alone than in bad company! Good riddance!
And here’s the happy truth: Those who love you will stick around regardless.
# 2 – We feel we do not have the right to say NO.
Ever felt like saying no makes you a selfish jerk? Yep, I’ve been right there with you!
We may believe that taking care of our own needs or even just treating ourselves as equal to others is selfish. We may feel we don’t have the right to say no, or make our own decisions about what we do or do not want to do. FALSE, FALSE, and you guessed it, FALSE!
The reality is you DO have the right to say no. Guess what, friend?! You have needs just like everyone else, and those needs count too! You deserve to take care of yourself.
And no, I’m not suggesting you become the most selfish gal in town. I’m merely saying you get to decide what you will or will not say yes to. If you want to be saying no to something, then you have every right to do so. And don’t you forget it!
As difficult as saying no can be, there are some things you can do to help.
Here are 6 Strategies To Help You Say No:
# 1 – Decide before you speak
When it comes to strategies to help you say no, this one has been most helpful to me.
When someone asks you for a favour, and they are waiting on a response from you, be sure you’ve decided what your answer will be before you talk. If you still haven’t decided, don’t talk to them yet! Take the time to determine what YOU are and are not willing to do.
If you enter a conversation seeming unsure of where you stand, it’ll be easier for others to push you into saying yes. Try your best to avoid this by showing up sure and ready!
# 2 – Wait until you are asked
Ever volunteered to do something for someone who has only hinted they needed something? You know, without even having asked you for anything? For instance, a coworker will comment on how busy they are to get the monthly report done, and just like that, you offer to get it done for them.
Volunteering to do something, when you don’t want to, takes the responsibility off of the other person. Since they haven’t asked you for anything, they don’t owe you anything. And, you’ve only just made it more convenient for them to get something out of you.
The next time you’re in this situation, force yourself to wait for the question. This may feel a bit awkward for you, especially if you’ve only started doing this, but give it a try. You will likely notice that people won’t ask you for things as much as they will hint for them.
# 3 – Stop apologizing and making excuses
When you apologize for something, when it isn’t necessary, you are acting as though you owe something to the other person. You are implying that you have done something wrong and that the other person should expect you do them a favour.
You do NOT owe them something. You have NOT done something wrong. So, please stop saying you’re sorry!
And, stop defending your decision and making excuses for it! Often your explanation will create an opportunity for the person to figure out another way to get you to say yes. Just remember, you have chosen to say no. It is your choice, period. You do NOT have to make an excuse for a choice.
# 4 – Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Here’s #4 on my list of strategies to help you say no – repeat, repeat, repeat!
I’ve been there. I’m in the middle of an anxiety-inducing conversation, I just want it to end, and I’m desperate to run, so I find myself changing my response over and over again. My initial no then becomes a maybe, which then turns into a yes. I walk away feeling shitty about myself and utterly defeated.
How does one avoid this? Stick to your response and repeat, repeat, repeat.
When you rephrase your response, you appear as though you are uncertain. This uncertainty will provide the other person with an opportunity to get you to change your mind.
Stop worrying about telling the person what they want to hear. Just keep repeating your answer over and over again. They will eventually hear it.
And get used to having to do this. Once you begin saying no, after always saying yes, people will not accept your refusal the first time. Or the second, third, maybe even hundredth time!
People will try to push you into saying yes again and again. Stand firm in your response, stop rephrasing, and repeat, repeat, repeat!
# 5 – Stop waiting for them to accept you and learn to accept the outcome
Some people will not like you saying no. That’s just the truth. Stop waiting for them to be okay with your response, because they may never be. And that is OKAY. Your decision is not based on their acceptance — your choice is based on what is best for you.
If you keep trying to convince someone to accept your response, you are handing them the power. Guess what, lovely?! The power is all yours.
Learning to accept unpleasant reactions of others is important. People may think you’re inconsiderate, or selfish, or whatever, and they have the right to think that. You have the right to say no, and others have the right not to be happy with that.
Learning to accept this is helpful because it frees you from the pressures of having to please. Eventually, and with practice, you will begin to learn that the reactions of others do not define you. Their opinions should not control your every move.
This is your life. Your self-worth is not defined by anything external. You get to choose what you are capable of doing and what you are not. You get to decide what to say Yes to and what to say No to. It all comes down to you. And none of this makes you selfish.
# 6 – Build Self-Love
Last, but definitely not least, on my list of strategies to help you say no is to love yourself.
Loving yourself makes it easier to say no. How? Well, when you value your time, choices, and well-being, you can respond to things with more confidence.
You will respect your choices to say yes and to say no. You will feel less guilty about not pleasing others.
Loving YOU is like having your own superpower, one that helps you go through life with more strength, and the ability to get through anything.
Saying no can be a difficult thing to do. As a recovering people-pleaser myself, my years of people-pleasing eventually led me to depression and burnout. The truth was, all the times I said yes to others, I was saying no to myself.
There are so many reasons people have trouble saying no. For me, it was because I feared people would not accept me if I said it, and I felt I didn’t have the right to say it.
As challenging as saying no can be, some techniques can help. The next time you want to communicate no to someone, here are some strategies to help you say no:
- Decide before you speak
- Wait until you are asked
- Stop apologizing and making excuses
- Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
- Stop waiting for them to accept you and learn to accept the outcome
- Build Self-Love
Learning to say no is important to your well-being. It puts you in the driver’s seat of your life. Grab that steering wheel! You got this. 🙂
Until next time, my resilient friend! <3