No one is going to love you any more or any less just because you do what they want.
Like most people, all of my life I’ve struggled with saying ‘no’. But let’s face it – we’re not conditioned to. As children we only say no to ‘stranger danger’, people who are trying to harm us, but certainly not our parents, teachers or relatives. (try that when you’re 5!) Being raised to say ‘yes’ to everyone makes us polite, compliant children. However as adults it can keep us stuck in unhealthy relationships – both personally and professionally, erode away at our self esteem, eat up our time and leave us feeling drained and powerless.
“No Thank You”….. is a complete sentence.
As a coach, I’ve noticed over the years that saying ‘yes’ to everyone is a ‘relationship preserver’, or at least it seems that way at first. Saying ‘no’ to people is hard – what if their feelings get hurt, it makes them angry, they don’t feel the same way about you anymore or it jeopardizes a work relationship? Trust me when I say, that if a relationship or a friendship ends simply because you say no, it wasn’t sitting on a strong foundation to begin with.
To further that, society, and particularly the personal growth industry, tells us to be ‘YES’ people! “Be positive! Have a yes-to-life attitude!” But the simple fact is that you can’t say ‘yes’ to every ask, demand or desire – not even your own, and remain productive, centered, healthy and self-possessed.
Here are a few tips to help you master the Subtle Art of Saying No —
1. Get clear on your boundaries, values and goals and stick to this. If the request or personal desire doesn’t line up with that, reconsider.
2. Don’t explain yourself. Don’t go on an on, it weakens your position both internally and externally. Who are you really trying to convince? You’re not 5, you don’t owe anyone an explanation.
3. Get better at accepting ‘no’ from others. If someone says no to your request, accept and respect that, this is what truly makes it a genuine request and not a threat. When we ask someone for something and get angry if their reply isn’t positive we weaponize our emotions. It makes it all conditional – “I’ll only like you if you say yes to me.” Don’t do it to other people and you’ll notice fewer people will do that with you.
4. Be polite and sensitive to the other person’s feelings but firm and true to your own. Here are some examples:
I appreciate you thinking of me, but no thank you.
Thanks for thinking of me, but I really can’t right now.
Not today, thanks.
It’s not for me, but thank you.
I’d rather not, but thank you for asking.
Could we maybe find another way or time to do this?
I’d love to help you, but let’s find another way.
Providing an alternative… ‘A better option might be…’ (and offer one!)
And when someone keeps asking you for the same thing for months but you really don’t want to do it….. ‘Thank you, but no. This really just isn’t right for me.’
5. Be firm in saying ‘no’ to yourself…. And then saying yes.
If you’re trying to lose weight….. say no to that dessert, yes to fruit.
If you have a plan to save money or pay off debt…. say no to spending and yes to saving, investing or the freedom of debt reduction.
If you have decided you’d like a new relationship, say no to that guy or girl who just isn’t right for you and yes to channeling that time into connecting with people who might be a better match.
6. And last but not least….. Don’t take freebies! Most of us are hardwired to want to reciprocate when someone gives us something or does something for us. How many times have you taken a sample at the grocery store and then felt obliged to buy the product from the nice sample-person when you might not have otherwise? 🙂
Saying ‘no’, when treated with reverence, respect and kindness, is an act of self-love and self-care. It preserves your boundaries, honors your integrity, and maintains the commitments and vision you hold for your life.
Learning to say ‘no’ in a way that is healthy and respectful for everyone is the real relationship preserver. It establishes essential boundaries and acceptance for each other as whole human beings with individual values and desires.
Over the next month, practice this in your own life. As always, I’d love to know what changes.
Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things. – Steve Jobs