Why not no?
When was the last time that you did something you didn’t really want to do? I’m not talking about things that no one usually wants to do like scrubbing a toilet or taking out the garbage when you’re too tired or when the weather is especially bad. I’m talking about things that you have agreed to do when someone asked you to, even though you didn’t really want to do them. Things that you have said yes to out of either obligation, guilt, over-zealousness, or some other emotional reason.
What about the times that you have said yes to something even though you didn’t readily have the time to do that project, but you really wanted to be involved and please those around you? Or maybe it was because no one else stepped up and you felt the project needed to be done? Perhaps you didn’t say no simply because you were not comfortable saying no? How often does that happen to you?
You are not alone
If, (like many), you also struggle with this, it is generally because of challenges with boundaries and assertion. There are many reasons why this happens, and it is important to determine the ultimate root cause in order to break cycles. Though more immediately important, I think, is to learn how to address these situations assertively.
The Struggle is Real
Being assertive can be challenging and uncomfortable – especially if we feel we’re giving bad or negative news. What do you do when you don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings? What about when you can see the eagerness and anticipation in their eyes?
The Gift of No
Many years ago, I was approached by a co-worker who noticed my usually “over-full plate” of things to do. As a kind gesture, they provided an article about “The Gift of No”. I don’t have that article, but the general concept is that by allowing yourself to say “no”, it serves as a gift to yourself that allows you to be more authentic and to focus on what really matters most to you. It removes false pretenses and encourages direct, honest communication. In practice, it is often challenging to learn and is especially hard for people (like myself) who are people pleasers, but ultimately we need to be able to say no (without guilt) for the sake of ourselves.
No is for You
The gift of no is about being fair to yourself and about being an authentic person. It takes a while of practice to get comfortable. Though with enough practice, you’ll be able to easily get past any feelings of regret, guilt, or remorse you might initially feel for saying “no”.
The Gift of No Video
When researching for this blog, I couldn’t find the initial article that was previously shared with me. However, I did find this great TedX talk by Suzan’ Stroud. It’s a great overview of the topic with good advice and memorable stories. Poignantly, she said, “Learning to say what you mean and mean what you say eliminates the need for negotiation.” That is so powerful. I highly recommend you watch her short video!
Benefits of No
Can you visualize how utilizing this Gift of No in your everyday life could help you become more authentic? Many of our great teachers speak about the importance of being an authentic person, and with good reason! Steve Blum has a great blog about Integrity and Taking Responsibility where he shares more about this topic and the benefits of taking responsibility.
Be Nice with your No
It is important to note the priority of being kind when practicing your Gift of No. Our actions and words have impact, even more than we realize. So being kind, but firm, in your no is imperative. Assert yourself, though also don’t feel the need to explain everything or justify your reasoning. Besides, giving additional (unnecessary) information opens opportunities for the asker to sway your decision. If you say, “I would, but I have to pick up my dry cleaning so I’m ready for an event in 2 days.” They can dissuade your decision and encourage you to shift your schedule to accommodate their ask – especially since “you have 2 days”. Though if you simply say, “Unfortunately I can’t” they don’t have information to use against your decision or change your mind.
Give Yourself the Gift of No
Your life and your time are precious. You get to choose when and where you invest your time and energy. If you don’t want to do that random extra task someone is asking you to do, teach yourself to be okay with a polite decline. Respect yourself. Value your time. Honor your truth. Allow yourself to have and practice the Gift of No. To thine own self be true. You are worth it and you’ll notice some wonderful benefits from it, too!