I hate the word “no,” don’t you?
It sucks to be refused something. It’s even worse when we are the ones refusing something to someone else. Who wants to be the bitch that lets others down?
It feels much nicer to be the good girl who always helps others, doesn’t it? But, only for a little while. Because, as I’ve learned the hard way, when we say “yes,” to something we can’t, or don’t want to, do, we always end up feeling frustrated and resentful. And that hurts our relationship with our family, friends and colleagues more than a gentle “no” would have done.
That’s why we need to master the art of saying “no”. I’m still practising myself, but these reasons and tips are making it easier for me to utter the dreaded two letter word. Without guilt. And without hurting others. I hope they’ll help you too:
Why we need to get better at saying no
- 1. It frees our time to focus on the really important things, giving them the priority they deserve. Every time you say “no” to something unimportant, you say “yes” to something that is.
- 2. If we always say “yes”, other people’s needs will always come before ours.
- 3. When we feel forced to say “yes”, we end up feeling frustrated, stressed, and resentful.
- 4. If we never say “no”, we’ll eventually take on more than we can chew, and disappoint someone. We may even gain a reputation as unreliable!
- 5. When we never say “no”, we don’t have the time to rest and recharge.
How to know when to say “no”
Even when we have a good reason for saying no, the word doesn’t always easily slide off our tongue. We feel selfish and guilty, torn between our desire to help and our our need to put our priorities first.
While our mind and our heart are battling it out, we need to listen to our body. It always tells us what to do, and it’s never wrong. When we should say “no,” it lets us know.
It’s that sinking feeling. That little twinge of anxiety. That clenching in the shoulders. That faint voice in our head that’s whispering it’s not a good idea. All signals our body is sending us to let us know that saying “yes” could lend us in more trouble down the road.
How to say “no” without feeling guilty
So, now we know when to say “no.” But how to say it without feeling guilty and disappoint the other person? Here are a few tips:
1. Say “no” to the request, not the person.
Sometimes, we say “yes” because we’re afraid our friend or colleague will feel personally rejected. In that case, try saying something like, “I’d love to help you, but I can’t. I’m so busy this week. But let me know next time you need some help, and I’ll see what I can do.” You don’t need to over-explain, but giving people a reason for your refusal will help them take “no” better. Just keep it short.
2. Offer an alternative
Just because you can’t do what someone asked you, it doesn’t mean you can’t help out in other ways. If you can’t meet someone for dinner on Tuesday, offer to reschedule for Friday. If you can’t take on a new client, refer he or she to a colleague who will. People will be glad you’ve offered them an alternative, Just make sure it’s less complicated and time-consuming than what they asked you in the first place!
Not all request needs an immediate response. If just the thought of saying no is enough to trigger a small panic attack, take a deep breathe and say, “Can I think about it?,” or “Let me check my schedule and get back to you.” This will slow things down, and give you the time to be comfortable with saying no. Just don’t wait too long to say it. The request won’t be forgotten, and neither will your silence. A gentle “no,” motivated by a brief explanation and a kind alternative, is better than no response at all.
Saying “no” is gonna be very awkward and uncomfortable at first. Just accept it, and keep practising. Others won’t hate you for it. And you’ll become a lot more productive and reliable, free to finally focus on what really matters to you, be it spending more quality time with your family, starting a new business, or taking a year off and travelling around the world. Now, isn’t that worth a bit of discomfort?
How good are you at saying “no”? Do you have any tips to make it easier?