SAYING “NO” IS OK??
Who knew a two-letter word could cause so much angst amongst us? That little word, though, is laden with so much negative connotation that it often stops people in their tracks. Let’s take a closer look at the word “no” and, by the end of this blog post, you will have several comfortable ways of saying it added to your arsenal.
Society has given the word “no” such negative connotations. We are encouraged by society to “be nice”, to help, to give. To do anything else is often perceived as “bad,” “selfish,” “not nice.” We are encouraged to say “yes” when, at times, we really need to say “no.” When wanting to say no to a request, a person might feel guilty at the thought of letting someone down or feel bad at the idea of not being liked for using what some consider an aggressive word. Many find it easier to take the path of least resistance and just say, “yes.”
Here’s the thing, though. You are being asked to make a choice – yes or no. You are being given an opportunity to make a decision that is in your best interest. This right here is a form of self-care; the opportunity to implement boundaries. You can ask yourself questions such as:
- Do I have the time and energy for this additional commitment?
- Does this request align with my values and the goals I have set for myself?
- Is there a cost to not accepting this opportunity?
If you’ve decided that you would like to say no, for whatever reason, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Say it directly and clearly. When a person hems and haws, it provides an opening for the other to keep asking and perhaps add pressure. For example, if one were to say, “I can’t, I’m busy that day,” that enables the “asker” to keep asking about different days until they hit on one where you’re not “busy.” If, however, you were to say, “I’m sorry, I wish I could help, but I have a full plate at this time,” that takes away any wiggle room. “No” was stated directly, clearly and, might I point out, unoffensively.
- This is self-care. Whether you say yes or no to anything, you are setting a boundary. You are announcing to others how to treat you, what your personal goals are and where your values lay. Deciding whether to say yes or no empowers us with greater control over our lives.
- Offer an alternative. Being asked a question does not mean yes and no are the only answers. What if your sister asked you to babysit your nephews on an evening you had planned for yourself at home. After all, it’s easy to feel like an evening at home in your jammies, with a big bowl of popcorn and a Netflix binge-fest are not “real plans” but they most absolutely are. It’s very possible you’re going to feel obligated to say yes. But what if you offered an alternative? “I wish I could but, unfortunately, I already made plans for tonight. I have Sunday available, though.” This enables you to take care of both yourself and your family. Had you agreed to cancel your plans for tonight, you might have felt resentment brewing and that doesn’t help anyone.
- What happens if you need to say no after saying yes?! Yikes! This is doable with some care. If you’ve considered the cost of backing out and this is indeed the right decision for you, be diplomatic but truthful and assertive. A short explanation is all that is needed, such as, “When I agreed to join this project, I wasn’t aware of a big assignment at work. Because of that, I need to decline.” In order to help preserve the relationship with those involved, it would be helpful to apologize, express your gratitude for their original offer and take responsibility for any mistake in accepting their offer or for just overextending yourself. Alternatives can also be offered, if available. This could be offering a different time frame when you would be available or perhaps you could connect them with different resources.
Hopefully you can see that saying, “no” doesn’t have to be as scary or as painful as it is often made out to be. A request for your time is just that, a request, and you are free to respond in a way that best supports you, your needs and your values.
Alpert, J. 7 tips for saying no effectively. Retrieved from Inc. website: https://www.inc.com/jonathan-alpert/7-ways-to-say-no-to-someone-and-not-feel-bad-about-it.html
Wilding, M. (2021, September 20). How to say “no” after saying “yes.” Retrieved from Harvard Business Review website: https://hbr.org/2021/09/how-to-say-no-after-saying-yes