As a fellow people pleaser, I used to find it so difficult to say no to someone. No matter how bad, uncomfortable or stressed it will make me feel – I just could not say no.
Sometimes it had worked out for the best, accelerated my career or I’ve made new friends out of it. But sometimes, it has ruined my day, night or weekend and put mountains of unnecessary stress on me.
It can be as simple as someone asking to do something at work or a friend asking to stay with you for the weekend. These things may seem small to some people, but for someone with a heap of stress, anxiety and a lack of confidence, it’s not that easy to deal with.
It can even catapult beyond this, and after saying yes too many times, people start to notice and take advantage of you (consciously or not). I think that’s what bothers me the most.
So here, I want to talk about ways we can stay strong, stick up for ourselves (in a non-confrontational way – because, confrontation is just not my thing) and stop doing things we don’t want to do.
- Does the thought of confrontation, rejection or disappointment send shivers down your spine?
- Do you apologise a billion+ times?
- Do you feel a heap of stress, anxiety and discomfort when having to say no to someone?
Then this is the post for you.
To make things easier, I’ve been trying to look at it this way. I can either:
- Say yes and suffer
- Say no and suffer
- Say no and be happy with my choice.
It seems so simple now, right? Definitely number 3.
But it’s soooooo not. But why? Why can’t we say no?
- You’re a people pleaser and hate to let people down
- You hate confrontation and saying no opens that door
- You’re too nice for your own good
- You feel like you can’t say no
- All of the above, plus anxiety, stress and whole heap of other shit
Being able to say no has the ability to:
- Relieve built up stress, anxiety and pressure
- Help your mental and emotional wellbeing
- Give you time, energy and freedom
- Make life easier, rather than harder
- Feel liberating
- Provide you with more opportunities
- Provide you with a more balanced life
- Provide you with courage and confidence
Saying no can be one of the hardest things, especially when it is someone close to you, or even your boss. It’s important to understand that you always have a choice, you just need to find the confidence within you to stand up for yourself.
It certainly won’t feel natural at first, but it will be the most liberating things you do.
Know your limits
Taking a step back and understanding your own boundaries, what makes you happy and what makes you uncomfortable, will help when choosing to be strong and say no. It’s also good to understand why you struggle to say no, is it because you do not like confrontation or does that person intimidate you?
Take a look at your relationship with the other person, or your role (if you’re at work, for example). This way you know what is expected of you and justifies in your own mind that it is okay and more than reasonable to say no.
Ask yourself: is it worth it?
How is it going to make you feel and what effect is that going to have on your wellbeing? Is it worth going through all that, just because you felt you couldn’t say no?
Make sure you are putting yourself and your wellbeing, first.
Don’t fall for manipulation
I’m not just talking about a friend or family member here. This article is including sales people, bosses and colleagues, too.
Some people, whether intentionally or not, are manipulative. In order to spot this, you may notice they are trying to bring out feelings of guilt in you, or ask you something without providing an ‘opt out’.
Being aware that this is the case might help you overcome those feelings of guilt, because you shouldn’t have to feel like you owe anyone anything, especially if they are manipulating you.
Don’t justify yourself
One of the biggest things I am guilty of is justifying – not just with saying no, but nearly every time I speak.
It’s a real bad habit.
When understanding how to say no, over justifying your answer makes it really difficult. All those words you need to remember, trying to let someone down gently, is just unnecessary.
Actually, a lot of people prefer an answer without all the fluff. If you feel the need to justify, just provide them with a brief explanation, then stop. Don’t beat around the bush. The less the said, the better.
Be assertive and confident
It is likely that, when saying no to someone with an ounce of confidence in your voice, they are less inclined to push you and more inclined to take your answer seriously.
But confidence is not just something we can pluck out of thin air. Every single day I struggle with confidence. Sometimes, you have to start by acting a little confident. Sounds silly, I know. But acting confident and seeing the positive results, actually is a great way to install confidence into you naturally.
Be sure to stand tall and be a little assertive. People will take you more seriously. If they can see that you are struggling to say no (some) people will push you even further, resulting in an uncomfortable yes.
Believe in yourself. It will take time, but the more you learn how to say no, the more confident you will become doing it.
Sometimes it is much easier to lie when you want to say no.
It’s more than likely that any lie to you tell will lead to strong feelings of guilt, stress and pressure. This defeats the point of trying to stay strong and say no, because you’ll just add a different type of stress on yourself, let alone having to remember the lie you told and make sure you the truth never comes out. Lying isn’t easy.
One thing I do (because firstly, I struggle to say no and secondly, I’m not good at thinking on the spot) is put things off. I’ll say something like “I’ll check and let you know”. When deep down, I know I don’t want to. This just buys more time to think of a good enough lie to tell.
If you genuinely don’t know, then you can’t help but delay it. But if you are delaying because you want to say no but don’t have the confidence to, then using a delaying tack tick will only add more stress because you know you have to deal with it one way or another.
Saying no and just having a conversation with someone will deal with the situation there and then, without adding more stress.
Saying no doesn’t mean you have to be rude or blunt. Simply saying “I’m afraid I can’t this weekend”
Being polite provides a cushion to the receiving party, and most of the time they can’t be rude to someone who is being polite (minus those a**holes who are just rude to everyone – unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do about that!) But if you know the person well enough, you can anticipate how they will respond and tailor your answer to ensure both parties are happy and remain on good terms.
Put the question back on them
This is a really great tactic, especially if it is a colleague or a boss you are trying to stand up to. This allows you to come to a compromise, but at the same time, putting the ball back in their court.
This is especially helpful in a work situation, when your boss is coming down hard on you and you’re already strapped to tight deadlines, simply saying “I’m happy to help, but I am super busy right now with xyz. What would you like me to prioritise?”
Practice saying no
Sounds silly, I know. But running through how you are going to say no in your head (or in the mirror, whatever your preference) may just help you.
It’s about finding a balance though, personally, if I over plan my answer, I can’t remember it on the day. Simply hearing yourself say it out loud is a good way to instil confidence in yourself and you can see just how not so bad saying it really feels.
Stand up strong, head high. You’ve got this.
Your self-worth does not define how much you do for people
Self-worth is something we all measure, but sometimes with the wrong scales. Our careers, our appearance and what other people think of us are key factors to this, but the wrong factors.
One of the biggest ways some of us determine our self-worth is our ability to please others.
When you’re so used to doing things for people, even when you don’t necessarily want to, it feels like that’s your purpose. If you’re anything like me, you probably also have a need to always be right and have a huge fear of failure. When you finally pluck up the courage to say no – it can have an effect on how you see yourself. Your self-worth does not define how much you do for people.
You are still you. Just a stronger, more confident you who is doing something for themselves.
It is important to understand that you always have a choice. Learning to stand up and say no will take time, effort and consistence, but it will come. It certainly won’t feel natural at first, either!
What’s your experience with saying no? Do you have any top tips to share for those who need it? 🙂