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Updated: Jun 20, 2021


“NO”... feels too harsh & negative? It’s socially unacceptable! My friends won’t accept NO for an answer! When I did try to say NO once, I ended up giving detailed explanations only to hear them all say, “these are all excuses.” Ugh.. I’m just going to say YES even when I have a million other things on top of my priority list!

We all crave for acceptance from the people that we love, from the people we’ve known and when that’s not enough we wish to be liked even by people we don’t know. We do so many things for others only to be liked by them, sometimes even when it is against our own will. But why ruin your perfect self, just for someone else’s average? And why do we choose to live with this guilt and burden?

Often we find ourselves saying yes even to things that we don’t like, to avoid confrontation or because we’re afraid we might hurt them. But in this process, we end up hurting ourselves. We tend to put everyone else’s needs before our own. It’s not about being selfish, but there is a difference between giving and over-giving.

Being agreeable isn’t a bad quality; it means you’re empathetic and easy to get along with. It’s when you’re too agreeable that others can take advantage of you. Doing things that you don’t have the time to do, forsaking your own choices, agreeing with the opinions of others, basically sums up to letting others decide for you. “We live under this misconception that saying yes, being available, always at the ready for other people, makes us a better person, but in fact it does quite the opposite,” according to Susan Newman, a social psychologist and author of “The Book of No.”

Pleasing others at the expense of your emotional well being can have a lot of psychological effects on you. It can lead to bad relationships and make you feel stressed. As the time and energy to accomplish your own goals is surely and steadily eaten up by other people’s demands, you might also begin to experience anxiety. If we don’t focus on what we really want, and spend all of our time doing what others want, it is possible to eventually not even know what we want.

When we are continually saying yes and prioritizing other people’s needs over our own, something shifts inside of us and we can easily become enablers and we may lose focus. Saying yes all the time can get overwhelming. We may be taken for granted. We also become unavailable to say YES to important things. If we’re always doing things for others, we may miss out on something really good for ourselves.

It is only by saying NO to things that are unnecessary, that we can work on our self-care. Standing up for ourselves may make us seem like stubborn or rude, but it is important that we learn to refuse in a way that is not impolite. This doesn’t imply we never go out of the way to help others, but occasionally, when you are too tied up with yourself, it is okay to excuse yourself from the burden of pleasing others. You certainly can be a person with a good heart and still say NO. Without taking care of yourself first, you wouldn’t be able to lend a hand to others.

So here's how you can effectively say NO:

  • Say it - Don't beat around the bush or offer weak excuses. Provide a brief explanation if you feel you need to; however, don't feel compelled.

  • Be Assertive and Courteous - take charge, tell them you’ll let them know if and when you will be able to.

  • Set Boundaries - when you truly understand the dynamic and your role, you won't feel as worried about the consequences of saying no. You'll realize that your relationship is solid and can withstand your saying no.

  • Be Firm - stand firm and don't feel compelled to give in just because that person is uncomfortable.

  • Use “I” Statements instead of “You” Statements - state your priorities clearly.

  • Don’t Go On and On - the lesser you tell, the better.

  • Trust Your Gut - your intuition will seldom lead you astray. If it doesn’t ‘feel’ right, listen to your instincts – and say no.

  • Say it Often - the more you practice, the less terrifying it will become. Start saying no to anything that doesn’t add value to your life.

Simplify your life, learn to say NO. Do what makes you happy without having to explain it to people, because those who really matter will understand anyway. Don’t push beyond your limits when you clearly don't want to and most importantly, don’t say maybe when you want to say NO.

Written by - Amrin Vadsaria

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