It seems the hardest word for people to say is no – next to I’m sorry, but that’s another story. When you say no, often it is said with guilt or you experience an uncomfortable feeling. You feel you are letting the other person down. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are ways to say no without feeling guilty and still keep your friendships and health in tact.
First, there are two types of no. A negative no and a positive one. When said in the negative it is coming from a place of fear. For example, you turn down a public speaking event because you are afraid to stand in a room full of people. Or you turn down a trip with a friend because you have never been to that place before. These nos are said out of fear.
On the other hand, a positive no reflects your values and knowing what is important to you. Turning down a movie invite because you want to stay in with a book is about self care and looking after yourself. You can always accept the next movie night with your friend. A positive no puts your needs first and understanding what is important to you.
However, what if you are not sure if your response is a negative or positive one? The key is to listen to your mind and body. Be aware of how you react to an invitation or request. If it makes you uncomfortable, you feel your stomach butterflies take flight then it may be something that you don’t want to do. Or it doesn’t align with your values.
When you are asked to do something you don’t want to do, you experience a physical reaction. Your body goes into a fight or flight response.
So, why is it so hard to say no?
The answer lays in your upbringing. As a child you were taught to be a people pleaser. If you said yes, you were rewarded with being a good person. If you said no, then punishment and disapproval generally followed. People also crave acceptance in society. If you say no you risk being isolated and cast out of your social network.
However, constantly pleasing everyone leaves you feeling exhausted – emotionally and physically. You may seem happy to help on the outside, bust inside you blame others for putting pressure on you. That is why it is important to set boundaries.
A positive no is honest and respectful to yourself as it allows you to give time to you and the activities, events and projects of value and importance. It also allows people to understand your priorities and where they stand with you.
So, how do you get comfortable with saying no while protecting your health and friendships? And how do you say no without seeming mean and disrespectful?
It’s all in the delivery of your words. You may say `I can’t’ a lot before adding a ton of excuses. The more excuses you add the less genuine you sound. This makes your excuses sound like you are lying.
Instead use `I don’t” and only use one reason, then cut it off and move the conversation forward. Be honest about why you choose to say no and don’t keep apologising.
When you say no, remember that you are not refusing the person or your friendship. You can still share in their event by telling them it sounds like fun and you would love to hear about it later. You can still be happy and interested in what they are doing without attending.
Saying no will always be hard, but when you are positive and honest in why you choose to say no, it creates respect and stronger bonds between you, friends, family and even colleagues.