Stop! You can say No!!
It’s been a long time since I’ve written something new. Why’s that, you ask? Well, I’ve been taking care of some basics. But it’s really hard to slow down because it requires me to say “no” to a lot (and I wasn’t always successful).
Why is saying “no” so hard?
- It’s me or you. We can feel like we’re slighting someone by saying no to their request. As a good, caring person, I must sacrifice my own desires, needs, or self-care to help. THIS IS NOT TRUE! Saying no does not equate to “I don’t like you.” You can understand the need, but you don’t have to be the one to fill it. How often do we “sacrifice” to help someone else and we don’t feel satisfied with what we do or we can’t help someone else who really needs it or, even worse, they don’t appreciate it anyway? Sometimes we don’t even like the other person and are willing to sacrifice to help them. We must start gracefully opting out, recognizing that we aren’t selfish in doing so. You can recognize the need and fulfill it in fantasy (I wish I could help, it sounds really important) or you can help them find their help elsewhere (I’m not available, but I’d love to find someone who is). You must take care of yourself if you want to be able to help anyone else!
- My value is in helping you. One of the secrets of charity is that helping feels good – you’re helping someone else, find meaning in it, and love yourself for it. That does not mean, however, that your only value lies with helping others. Helping others, beyond your abilities and available time, is not the way to improve your relationships. It’s a way to get used. If you put forward helping as the only thing you bring to the table, that’s how people will interact with you. You’ll become the guy with the truck, the woman who’s always able to cover a shift, or the person who’ll give out free advice. You’ll have a hard time being appreciated as a whole, wonderful human being. You’ll only be seen for what you offer. Interacting as a whole human being, with limitations and boundaries that you set appropriately, is how you develop fuller, more authentic relationships.
- I might miss an important opportunity. We’re used to being constantly plugged in, hoping to avoid missing any opportunities, any news, or anything. We want to be included, we want to take advantage of opportunities, so we say “yes” to as much as we can. There’s something positive about saying yes to life, but you don’t want to do this blindly. Certainly you can miss some great opportunities if you’re always saying no. That’s not what I’m saying here. If you say yes to one thing, however, you’ll probably not be able to say yes to something else. You must make a decision and not blindly say yes to all opportunities. This requires more thought to discern which opportunities you really want. You say yes to the right opportunities and have energy to fully take advantage of these opportunities without burning through your energy and resources.
- I haven’t really thought it all through. Sure, I can fit that in! How often do we realize later that we forgot so many things that we were going to “fit in?” If we don’t really think through what we need to do (and put it into our schedule), we can find ourselves double and triple booking our “free time.” An example for me– I was trying to fit a ton of things in on Monday morning. I would meet with a client, have a coffee with a colleague, or plan time to work on a project. What I finally realized (when I kept having to reschedule these things or work later into the evening to accomplish everything), was that I hadn’t scheduled time to check and respond to my emails. I don’t check emails or voicemails all weekend, so my inboxes are pretty full on Monday morning. I usually spend an hour or two following up on the communication that has accumulated. That’s 2 hours that I hadn’t accounted for. We do this all the time – with email, phone calls, travel time (parking and walking time are usually forgotten). We feel harried and like we haven’t accomplished anything. Look at your whole schedule (including the hidden tasks) before saying yes to anything else.
- No has to be repeatedly reinforced. Please! Only you can help me! I can’t believe you’re leaving me hanging like this! It goes on and on. We may have built up the gumption to say no once, but can struggle with the follow through if we’re facing a persistent “asker.” I find that helping to identify alternative solutions can be helpful for the asker (and can help me feel less guilty about saying no). However, you are not responsible for their problems and they should respect your boundaries. If this person repeatedly steps over the lines you’ve drawn, they may be someone who needs a more direct approach (NO!!!!!!) or they may be someone who you consider moving out of your day to day life. There is an inherent lack of respect in persisting past no. And, of course, there are times when crossing the boundaries of your “no” are unsafe or illegal. Remember that you’re valuable, you have limited resources, and you don’t need to give those resources to someone who doesn’t respect your time, your boundary, or you.
How have you said and stuck to “No?” Please share your own tips and thoughts in the comments!
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