For most of us, learning how to say no is one of the toughest things to do.
Whether we’re afraid of disappointing someone, feeling guilty or simply not wanting to be the bad guy – it seems that we agree to do the things people ask us to do – even when we really don’t want to.
So how do you learn to say no without feelings of anxiety, guilt, and fear of confrontation? I have a few tips I’d like to share with you. They’ve helped me out over the years, and I think they’ll help you too.
Learn to Say NO (Without Looking Like a Jackass)
1 – THINK ABOUT IT
If you’re hesitant to say yes when someone asks you to do them a favor, tell them you need some time to think it over. Maybe you could use the excuse that you’ll have to check your schedule or run it by ‘so and so’ before committing to anything.
Taking a pause is a great way to divert the situation for a little while. You’ve been put on the spot… and, perhaps, you’re experiencing conflicting feelings. This isn’t a way to make a deliberate and well thought out decision – so tell them you need a moment (or longer – you decide) and you’ll get back to them.
Allowing yourself to think things over buys you some time to navigate how you really feel about what’s being asked of you. Which leads to tip #2…
2 – EXPLORE YOUR FEELINGS
How do you feel about what’s being asked of you? Does it make you cringe or feel stressed? For example, if you made plans for this Saturday and you’re super excited about them – but your employer asks you to work an extra shift – what shows up for you?
Are you enthusiastic about helping this person out of a jam since they’ve been a gem and an honor to work for? Or do you feel a sense of dread overcome you because you’re already overworked, and desperately need your well-deserved time off – but you’re afraid of compromising your job or making your employer angry and having a price to pay?
These things matter because if you agree to something out of fear, the situation OWNS YOU. It creates a pattern of more of the same. Before you know it, you’ve become weakened and vulnerable to circumstances – and you don’t make any deliberate choices from a sense of genuine self-ownership and personal empowerment.
On the other hand, if you say yes because you feel a sense of enthusiasm about giving away what’s been asked of you, then YOU are the one in control and it’s the giving – in and of itself – that rewards you handsomely.Your feelings always speak to you, so when you're faced with a decision, it's important to listen to them. #personalempowerment #liveyourtruthClick To Tweet
3 – OFFER AN ALTERNATIVE
Sometimes, it’s easier to say no when you offer a solution that both you and the “asker” can benefit from. This way, if saying “no” makes you uncomfortable, but you REALLY don’t want to say yes, you can still do something to make the situation work for both of you (and you won’t feel like a jackass).
For example, your sister wants you to babysit the kids over the weekend, but you made plans that you don’t want to cancel. On the other hand, you love your sister (and your niece and nephew) so you’d like to help her out.
You can offer to meet her halfway and say something like:
“I’d really love to do this for you, but I made plans that I can’t break. However, I would be more than willing to help you out on Saturday…but Sunday I can’t (or vise versa). Will that work for you?”
You’d be surprised to find that most people are happy to accept whatever you can offer. If they can’t, and need someone to cover the full favor, at least you get to walk away knowing you were willing to help out, but on your terms and happy to work something out for everyone’s benefit.
How I Learned to Say NO
There were also times when perhaps I’d say yes because I was hoping it would get me something I could use later on – whether it was recognition, a favor or even something to place in my “karma” basket (yes, a lot of us keep those around) to remind me that I was a kind and giving person – which would help to elevate my self-worth.
Attempting to elevate my self-worth by becoming a martyr not only damaged my own sense of self-trust, but it wasn’t an authentic way to develop self-respect. After doing this for many years, I found I became resentful. I eventually swung the pendulum to the other side and started saying no to everything and everyone. I simply didn’t have the energy to give anything else away, so I went to the other extreme – which wasn’t such a great idea either.
I talk about being a martyr at length in “Don’t Be a Jackass.”True self-worth involves being both kind and firm. Kind to those who truly need your help, but firm with those who might be using you. #freeyourmind #iammyimaginationClick To Tweet
We teach people how to treat us, but that always starts with how we treat ourselves.
I started implementing the ideas discussed in this post and it helped immensely. They’re gentle ways to start saying no without hurting anyone – while buying time to do the inner work to examine your true feelings and motives.
I still use these techniques.
When someone asks for a favor, I’m capable of saying yes or no – based on my truth. If I need some time to consider it, I take it. I ask myself how I feel about it and whether I have it to give away (or if I want to). And when possible, I offer an alternative. This way, the person gets what they want – and so do I.I'm always happy to help someone out of a jam or to give something away to someone who needs it. However, if I don't have it to give away or if it just doesn't seem right to me, I don't - and I'm OK with that.Click To Tweet
You’ll always have those gray areas in which you’ll be confused at how to handle this sort of thing, but by using these techniques, you gain clarity – which helps you make the more difficult decisions since you now practice self-awareness and personal responsibility.
Try these ideas out the next time you’re faced with wanting to say no – but too afraid to. It’ll take some thought and practice – but eventually, you’ll feel confident enough to say no (and yes) when you really mean it.