Do You Have A Problem Saying The Word No?
For many people, the hardest word in any language to utter is the word “no.” It seems that we are just hardwired to say “yes.” We say yes to friends who ask favors. We say yes to the boss who needs someone to work overtime. We say yes to the family member who needs us to perform a task for them. Whenever anybody needs anything, we say yes.
The truth is that we believe that saying yes is a sign of love or friendship. It means we are denying ourselves what we want, in many cases, to help someone else. True, it means we often suffer from overwork, anxiety and physical and emotional burnout, but that happens to everyone doesn’t it?
Whether you believe it or not, there is a real danger to always saying yes. Often, someone will say “yes”, simply because they lack the ability and strength of character to say “no.” Saying no is actually a healthy habit to get into. If we do not develop this habit, then those around us, intentionally or otherwise, will begin to take advantage of our persons until we are living our lives completely at the will of others. Don’t get me wrong; living for others is not the same as living at the will of others.
Living for others means that you have set the compass of your life to revolve around helping those in need. That is a good thing. Living at the will and whim of those around you means you have traded your personal freedom for slavery. Your task masters may be friends, family members, employers, or even complete strangers. This is an unacceptable way to live in my opinion.
It is important to develop the strength to say no. That doesn’t mean it is easy. If you have been in the habit of being a “yes man/woman” then it is going to take some intentional retraining on your part to develop the strength to swim against the tide of favor seekers. The following steps can help you if you are ready to make some positive change in this area of your life.
Set Clear Personal Boundaries
We must have some clear rules for when we will say yes, and when we will say no. If you don’t know how to set those boundaries, then start by simply looking for areas of conflict. Many people, who can’t say no, often say yes, even when they have another obligation already slotted for the time in question. They simply allow their self-imposed guilt or fear to keep them from saying, “I am sorry, but I already have a prior commitment.”
After you have become comfortable with saying no to scheduling conflicts, you can begin deciding on other areas of personal preference. You should never say yes, just because someone wants you to. In spite of what “they” may tell you, you are not the only one that can help them; and even if you are, that does not mean you are obligated. I used to have a plaque in my office that said, “A lack of planning on your part, does not constitute and emergency on mine.” Albeit, when I had the plaque, I was a project manager and a lack of planning by someone else certainly did become my emergency. I do believe that it is still good advice to follow.
As you develop the habit of saying no, you will realize that you don’t have to say yes, simply because you are not committed to anything else. Your time belongs to you…no one else. Do not allow someone to guilt you into do their bidding simply because you aren’t doing anything else in their opinion.
Start Telling Yourself “No”
A good place to start developing the habit of saying “no” is with you. It is often just as hard, if not harder to say no to yourself than it is to say no to someone else. We live in a consumer driven, debt riddled society. Many times our overwhelming credit card debt is an indication that we have not developed the character to say no to ourselves. The same is true in areas of health, such as obesity. While there are certainly some medical reasons for obesity, there are also cases of obesity that result simply from an individual’s inability or unwillingness to say no to personal cravings.
I submit that we will never be successful at saying no to others if we cannot say no to ourselves. First master yourself, and you will find it much easier to resist the constant requests from others.
Enlist the Help of a Friend
Practice makes perfect…well, at least better. I don’t think there is any such thing as perfect in this world. Practice makes us better, but there is always room for personal growth. How can you practice saying no? Try enlisting the help of a true friend. Tell them that you are trying to develop the strength to say no in your life. Ask them to request things of you at random times simply to develop the habit of saying no. Give them permission to call you out when they see you giving in to the demands of those around you. Sometimes we simply say yes without even realizing what we are saying? Your friend might help by saying,
“Patty, don’t you already have another obligation at that time?” or “Patty, I thought you told me you really didn’t enjoy doing that kind of thing. Are you sure it is best for you to say yes?”
Don’t underestimate the power of a good friend. Many people struggling to overcome bad habits enlist the help of an accountability partner such as a Life Coach. It will help in this case as well.
Don’t Give Up
You might as well face the fact that the people around you may not appreciate your new-found freedom. If they are used to you always saying yes, they may get a little upset when you suddenly start saying no. That is not your problem. There are other people beside you in this world that can help them.
You may experience set backs from time to time and find yourself saying yes when you should have said no. In those cases, don’t get upset. If possible go to the person and explain that you really shouldn’t have said yes, and would it be possible to make other arrangements. If not, follow through, and then use that experience as a training opportunity. You can learn to say no. You can take back your life and personal freedom. Are you ready? This would be a good time to say YES!