Learning to Say “No”
Loving Ourselves Enough to Say “No”
If reading that title makes you uncomfortable, read on! We are so inclined to say, “Yes.” We want to help others, to please others, to contribute to solutions. Consequently, we are inclined to say yes, even when it comes with a price. And if you’re anything like me, then you say yes often times without even thinking of the cost.
Typically, the price is losing our own time, or giving less to another priority. Saying “No,” however, is critical to our self love and self care practice.
“It’s not an easy journey but it’s definitely worth doing all of the work needed to be able to start putting yourself first. Start loving yourself. Accept you for who you truly are. Nobody’s perfect but you need to embrace your uniqueness. Start loving yourself and putting you first. If you don’t want to do something, don’t do it. And find ‘me time.’ It’s so important.” Patricia Leblanc, Dream Maker.
If You Don’t Want to Do Something, Don’t Do It
This is a good starting point – but let’s be clear about what this means. It doesn’t mean you don’t pay the credit card bill, you don’t do the laundry, or you don’t go to work because you don’t want to. Rather, this is the first evaluator when someone asks you to do something extra. This can be a request for your time, your money, your commitments, or your gifts.
For example, if your boss asks you, “Can you stay late tonight?” before giving any answer, ask yourself, “Do I want to stay late?” “Do I already have other plans?”
Respect yourself and love yourself to know that if your plan is to go home, sit on the couch, watch mindless television and eat ice cream out of the container, that is “other plans.” Those “other plans” are just as important as a date with friends, or picking up a child from daycare. Those “other plans” enable you to show up and do a good job tomorrow- will staying late adversely effect your future performance or your personal relationships?
Carefully consider before agreeing to sacrifice your time for someone else. If you do decide that you can sacrifice part of your evening to stay late, consider negotiating adding time later. For example, you could respond, “If I stay late tonight, can I come in late tomorrow? Or leave a bit early?” This way, your “free time bank” remains intact.
A good way to determine if another commitment is in your best interests is to do a gut check. If, when someone approaches you, you feel dread, this is a sign that you should say no. If you say yes, you will stress about your new commitment, you will resent your willingness to agree, and you will not find joy in the experience. This cost exceeds the actual amount of time you are performing the task.
How to Say No
Practice saying “no” right now. Imagine, visualize if you will, that you are being asked to support a cause by assisting in fundraising efforts. Imagine further that, while it is a good cause, it is not a cause you feel particularly motivated about. (And let’s be honest, there are literally hundreds of good causes and you can’t possibly support them all.) Imagine the conversation as follows:
“Can you bake 2 dozen brownies for the bake sale?”
“But we really need everyone to do their part.”
“I’m sorry. That’s not going to work for me.”
“No” should never go beyond that. Just “no.” If pressed, a simple “That’s not going to work for me” is a suitable response, because one really can’t argue with that.
How Not to Say “No”
You don’t have to offer excuses. You don’t have to explain. This can become an opportunity for the asker to argue or negotiate with you, based on the facts you present. If you say, “I don’t have the time,” they may counter, “Well, can you buy brownies for the bake sale?” If the bake sale was a priority for you, you probably would have already offered to buy brownies, or contribute $30.00 to the cause the bake sale was supporting. If it is not a priority, there is no shame in that. When saying “no,” love yourself enough to be comfortable with just saying no.
You might need to say “No” a lot…
There are people who “won’t take no for an answer”, or they think you’ll change your mind. They think if they ask you enough times then you’ll be on board. It’s ok. Stick to your answer.
The Reward of Saying “No”
When you say “no” to things that do not feed your soul, you are protecting yourself from, well, soul-less commitments. This allows you to feed your soul with that which nourishes you. It’s practice in setting boundaries. When you practice saying no to the small things (which add up) you’ll be more able to stand up for yourself when it really matters.
Keeping your commitments to a level where you are able to keep your first and most important commitment – to yourself is critical to self care and self love.