Are you a people pleaser?
Do you put the interest of others before your own?
Do you find saying “yes” to people only to regret it moments later?
If your answer to any of the above questions is a “yes”, it is best for you to learn how to say “no” confidently.
Here is the thing about saying “no”: it goes beyond that. It is about respect – both respect for yourself and those around you.
It is straight-up unjust to anyone to put yourself in a position that you are not comfortable being in. Still do not get it? Let me give several scenarios to let you know what I mean:
1. Your boss gives you an assignment, and you accepted it, knowing well that you could not manage it
There is nothing wrong with taking on additional responsibilities at work, provided that it does not throw your mental health out of the window. When you take on extra work, your colleagues and boss trust that you know what needs to be done and by when. If you are not keen on accepting the assignment, do not have the extra resources to handle it, or lack the required skills to get it done, make it clear to them that you cannot do it. Do not silence yourself. Instead, ask to help out in other ways that are well within your means.
2. You agreed to be a bridesmaid when you are already in deep financial trouble
Weddings of your dearest friends for life are a celebration of the couple’s love. It is a blessing to be part of such a significant milestone in their relationship. However, it does not serve you well if you cannot afford it. It will exert unnecessary pressure on you, the bride and possibly even your relationship. There is no harm in giving up this opportunity. Just make sure you decline the gift of a lifetime politely and respectfully.
3. Your friends are dying to drag you to someplace, but you insist on relaxing at home
You are not obligated by the law to succumb to peer pressure. While you do need to take some time to keep up with your social skills by mingling with your friends once in a while, if you know that they are going to a bar or club and you dislike being in those places, just do not go. If your friends have chosen a holiday retreat and you cannot afford to pay your share, inform them. If your friends love you, they are more than willing to make adjustments and compromise for you without making you feel guilty. Otherwise, find a new circle of friends.
Do not be confused – saying no all the time does not mean you are inconsiderate or selfish. Saying yes to certain things enables us to explore new opportunities and acquire new experiences, which then allows us to become better versions of ourselves today than yesterday. However, we must be conservative when it comes to handing out our affirmations. Saying yes to everything that comes your way is no different than buying a one-way ticket to an unbearable life.
Let us flip the situation around – when the people are the ones saying no to you
If you have the right to say no to certain things, then so does everyone else. The first and foremost point to outline here is that people have the right to say no as well, and you need to respect them and their decisions. A little bit of friendly persuasion can be a good thing at times, but you need to be mindful not to violate your friend’s boundaries. If your friend is reluctant to accommodate your request, respect your friend by backing away from the boundaries.
Also, please do not ask for reasons why your friend said no to you. Your friend does not need to explain the details only for you to tear it apart and make room to slot your agenda into their life. If someone tells you no, assume that it is for the best, respect their responses, and continue to do you without any feelings of resentment.
Speaking of resentment, do not take the no to heart. Chances are, it is not meant for you – it is for their own good. Listening to someone saying no to you can be disappointing. Still, if they are not entirely comfortable getting themselves involved in your agenda, then it is best that you again respect their decision to stay out of it.
All that said, here’s how to say no comfortably and without feeling rude:
Do not fret if you are feeling uneasy saying no currently. Saying no assertively and politely is a trade that takes time to learn.
1. Say no to yourself
Here is a daily exercise for you: right after you have brushed your teeth in the morning, look in the mirror and practice saying the word no. Tack on a “no thanks” to be polite. Allow those words to escape your mouth naturally.
2. Do not bother making baseless reasons for saying no
Again, you do not have to explain yourself each time you say no to someone who wants to take you out for dinner at one of the local Japanese restaurants. You do not need to inform your friend that you just want to go home and relax after a long day at work. I am sure your friends will understand and respect your choice to stay at home.
However, bear in mind that there are certain times when a reason needs to be given when you say no. In such scenarios, communicate to the listener(s) with honesty and make no space for further follow-ups. Say you were offered to spearhead a team project, that in spite of your boss’s confidence, you know you are not capable of leading. Explain the reasons to your boss and come up with a solution where you can develop your skillset so that in the future when similar events knock on your front door, you will be able to handle them professionally.
Where your close friend is involved, rather than permitting them to change your decision, schedule an alternative date. Perhaps you have something to do at home this Saturday, but next Saturday you are free and would love to have a party. It is up to them to take it or leave it, but this Saturday belongs entirely to you.
3. Accept that you are a priority in life
Declining to participate in situations that deteriorates your mental, physical or financial health is not something you (and everyone else) should ever feel guilty for. Sure, downing a couple of shots of vodka last night was fun, but dealing with a hangover and an over-drafted bank account twenty-four hours later is not.
Final 2¢: Do What Is Best For You
Being able to say no may enable you to be more honest and authentic with others. You may be less likely to feel taken advantage of, and people may learn to come to you for the things to which you are more inclined to say yes. People may learn to respect your yes rather than take it for granted, you may find that your resources are allocated more appropriately, and your connection to, and communication with, others may be healthier as well.
At the end of the day, always remember to do what you believe is best for you, even if it means saying no. Learning how to convey a positive no requires practice and patience. Respect yourself and others enough to say no when you have to. In the process, when people say no to you, learn to accept their words gracefully.