How often do you do things you don’t want to just because you don’t know how to say “no”? Many of us go along with saying “yes” to other people’s requests all the time. We are either uncomfortable saying “no” because we don’t want to disappoint others or to be seen as impolite or uncooperative. Sometimes we fear possible repercussions.
And if you are a teenager, the pressure seems even greater. You want to be liked and accepted and you don’t want to disappoint your friends, teachers, and parents by saying “no”.
But, the ability to say no is probably one of the vital life skills that we all should learn and nurture if we want to set personal boundaries, build healthy relationships and lead happier and healthier lives.
Even when you decline an offer or refuse to do someone a favor, you probably accompany it with a list of excuses and all sorts of explanations. However, you need to learn that “no” is a complete sentence that doesn’t require explanation or justification.
Learning to Say “No”
Learning to say “no” is a great way to create personal boundaries that will allow you to focus on your needs, boost your self-esteem, and concentrate on things that matter to you. When you don’t set boundaries by saying “yes” to everything, you are likely to feel overwhelmed, stressed, and fatigued. Also, saying “yes” to things you don’t want to do might eventually turn you into a people-pleaser who constantly needs approval from others to feel valued and confident.
Saying “no” enables you to be more honest and helps you clarify with others what they can expect from you. If you let other people know what you are and what you are not comfortable with, you are less likely to feel hurt and taken advantage of.
1. Be Clear About Your Priorities
Saying “no” without further explanations and excuses is easier when you are clear about your priorities. For example, you will easier decline an invitation for a party you don’t want to attend if you know that you have to study for an important exam or to go to bed at a decent hour.
2. Listen to your Gut
We all have an inner voice which intuitively tells us whether to do something or not. So, before you answer, take some time to pay attention to how you feel about the request and listen to your intuition. Mindfulness is a great way to practice tuning in your inner voice and paying attention to your feelings and thoughts at the moment.
3. Be Persistent
Practice repeating simple “no” calmly but firmly. This will help the other person understand that your “no” is resolute and that their insistence won’t change your answer. Be clear, confident and keep it concise. Saying “no” doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. You can use phrases such as:
- I have another commitment
- I am not comfortable with that
- I don’t feel qualified to do that
4. Show Respect
Instead of offering a lot of excuses to justify your reasoning, suggest other solutions. For example, offer a timeframe in which you may be able to accept the request or mention other things that you may be able to do to accommodate the person. Say something like
- Not right now, but I can do it later
- I know of someone who might be able to help you
- I cannot assist you on that, but here is what I suggest we do…
Doing so can strengthen your relationships even when you say “no” – it shows the person who asked that they have been heard and that you respect them.