Do you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with all the social events in your calendar? That all too familiar feeling of anxiety creeping up every time you reply 'yes' to something when in reality, it's the last thing you want to do?
Sometimes these stresses, anxieties or worries, are projected onto us when we least expect them. Not wanting to disappoint others and even fears of FOMO can make some people feel down in the dumps, creating a negative cycle of self-shaming. Even though you wanted to say 'no', you ended up making other people feel good at the expense of your own happiness.
So how do you say 'no' and not feel bad about it? First, we need to try and understand why people feel bad turning someone or something down. For example, saying 'no' may feel aggressive or too confrontational for some – like you’re rejecting that person leading to feelings of guilt. Or, they may even feel they won’t be liked or will be perceived as uncaring and unhelpful. As a result, people usually go the path of least potential conflict and comply with others.
If people do say no, they usually do it ineffectively and it comes with an excuse. Instead of having to continuously go back and forth with the same conversation trying to explain yourself, why not discover new ways for you to feel content with your decision and not have to lie or feel bad about it?
Below are helpful tools to keep in mind when trying to cultivate a healthier mind frame for yourself and not stay in a negative thought cycle when it comes to making decisions to do with your happiness.
How to say no without feeling guilty
1. Less is more
The first step is to stop the bad habit of making excuses. Excuses are only a mechanism for the other person to constantly have an opening. For example, “I’d like to help but I’m really busy”. The problem with this approach is it gives the other person an opportunity to continue to ask and he or she feels there’s an opening. “Since you’re busy this week, how about next week”?. Try to provide a brief explanation if you feel you need to, however, there's no need to feel compelled.
2. Be selfish
Put your needs first, not those of the person asking you for something. If you prioritize that person’s needs over yours, you’ll find your productivity will suffer and resentment will mount. This quote from Warren Buffett says it all, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say 'no' to almost everything”.
3. Set boundaries
People sometimes have a hard time saying 'no' because they haven’t taken the time to evaluate their relationships and understand their role in the relationship. When you truly understand the dynamic and your role, you won’t feel as worried about the consequences of saying no. You’ll realize that your relationship is solid and can withstand the ‘no'.
4. Be assertive but courteous
You might say, “I’m sorry I can’t right now but will let you know when and if I can”. This approach is polite and puts you in a position of power by changing the dynamic. You’re taking charge, telling people you’ll let them know when and if you can.
5. Put the question back on the person asking
This is highly effective in a work situation. Let’s say a supervisor is asking you to take on several tasks, more than you can handle. You might say, “I’m happy to do X, Y, and Z, however, I would need three weeks, rather than two, to do a good job. How would you like me to prioritize them?”
6. Be firm
If someone can’t accept your 'no', then you know the person is probably not a true friend or doesn’t respect you. Stand firm, and don’t feel compelled to give in just because that person is uncomfortable.
Here's to cultivating a healthier and happier you.
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