Have you scheduled away your weekend yet again on things you don’t really want to do? Stuck organizing the company picnic for the fifth year in a row or find yourself buying yet another bridesmaid dress for a wedding you’re not even sure you want to attend?
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In all those listed scenarios and similar situations, you probably wonder how you got there, and it’s actually really simple: you didn’t say no.
It’s funny, since “no” is probably one of the first words you learned as a kid, but now you have a hard time saying it as an adult. No one wants to seem rude, and it can be hard to admit what you really want, so you don’t say “no” because you don’t want to hurt someone else’s feelings.
In reality, that word can be the gateway to handling your own feelings and ending resentment while earning more free time and some needed inner peace. Try the following seven hints to start saying no successfully, without being mean, rude or hurting feelings unnecessarily!
1. Get Out Of Your Head
Thinking about your situations in an overly logical way is sometimes good and can even be stimulating, but it’s not always the right way to go. For example, it can also lead you to stress out about saying no to something you don’t want to do, such as thinking your friend will be mad at you if you don’t go to a party or that your boss will decide you’re shirking responsibility if you don’t volunteer for something at work.
Your mind can be a great storyteller, so you have to be ready to let your anxieties and imagined outcomes go when it comes to saying no. Remind yourself that you don’t really know what the person you are saying no to will think, and don’t let your imagined scenarios determine what you ultimately do.
2. Stay In Your Own Body
Knowing when you should say no comes down to figuring out how you actually feel. Your body knows when you’re going with yes because you want to do something versus when you feel you have no other choice.
Think of that tension in your jaw when your manager asks you to work some more overtime or that burning feeling in your stomach when your cousin wants to stay at your place for a few days again. Those sensations are your body’s way of telling you to say no.
Learn to recognize and heed these signals your body is sending you. When you experience one, be ready to decline whatever has been asked freely and without guilt. This may take some getting used to, but by listening to your instinctive reaction, you’ll be less likely to make mistakes.
3. Think About What You Really Want
Learning to say no doesn’t mean saying it all the time. You can say yes to as many requests, invitations and favors as you want. Learn to say yes from a place that feels clean, genuine and comfortable. Before you say yes, ask yourself the following questions:
• Do I really want to do this, and why?
• Am I comfortable with this request?
• Am I saying yes just because I want to avoid any discomfort that may arise from saying no? Why?
• Why am I finding it hard to say no? What imaginary scenario has my mind created for this situation?
Don’t say yes to something until you’ve honestly answered all of those questions. It can be easy to talk yourself into something you don’t want to do if you don’t take the time to examine your feelings properly, so try not to fall into that trap. It will be difficult at first, but it gets easier over time!
4. Go Ahead And Be Honest
The old adage of saying what you mean and meaning what you say is still pretty sound advice today. If you can’t do something, just say so. You don’t have to make up excuses to try to get around saying no, as you’ll end up feeling bad as a result. Giving an excuse is lying, and that always comes with a price.
As you practice this more, you’ll discover it just feels better to start saying no without an explanation. You can still keep the details to yourself, as you don’t need to justify your refusal to other people. It’s actually easier to keep your answer as simple and honest as possible, so you don’t feel the need to defend your reasons to someone else or feel embarrassed about what you’ve decided to do instead.
5. Take A Minute If You Need One
If you’re still struggling to say no or you have an automatic reaction of yes, start saying “Can I get back to you?” or something similar when you’re asked to do something you don’t want to do. This will help buy you distance and time, so you can figure out what you really want to do and hammer out a response that is genuine.
You don’t need to take days or anything. Just give yourself a little time, even if it’s just ten minutes, to decide what your wants are and respond to the request accordingly and in a way you’re happy with.
6. Accept You May Be Uncomfortable At First
When you’re used to saying yes instead of saying no, refusals can feel uncomfortable at first. Remember that discomfort will pass and is still usually better than the resentment you’ll experience at feeling forced to do something you don’t want to do.
Discomfort is often fleeting, but if you’re forced into yet another party you didn’t want to attend, you’re likely to be resentful and angry the entire time you’re there and even for a period afterwards.
7. Remember Practice Makes Perfect
Learning to say no is just like acquiring any other new skill: it will take practice. You’ll probably make mistakes or sometimes slip back into your old patterns, but don’t get too down about it. Remind yourself that any missteps you make are just opportunities to improve your skills for the next time. Keep those errors in mind as you move forward so you learn from them, and apply that new knowledge to future situations.
Go ahead and take it easy on yourself. Start off saying no to situations or people who aren’t super close to you emotionally. For example, saying no to a neighbor’s party is easier to handle than saying no to your brother’s TV bash, so that’s where you should start. Work your way up to saying no in situations that are closer to home once you’ve become more comfortable with it in less sensitive situations.
Once you’ve learned how to say no, you’ll find you have a lot more energy and time to do the stuff you enjoy. Get out there and enjoy life on your own terms, as it should be!