How to say no with ease

17 May 2017 - Mindful Practices

Do you feel guilty whenever you say ‘no’? Do you agree with someone because you’re afraid they will like you less otherwise? Here’s what happens when we keep saying ‘yes’ even when we don’t want to.

In The Disease To Please: Curing the People-Pleasing Syndrome, Harriet B. Braiker writes, “Conflict avoidance is a serious symptom of dysfunctional relationships. It’s better to recognise that negative emotions between people are inevitable… If you cannot express negative feelings, your relationships will simply lose their authenticity.”

But at what point does ‘yes’ go from being reassuring and kind to people-pleasing? It comes down to this: What’s your main intention behind this action? How do you feel after saying ‘yes’? It’s great to be liked, but if it comes at the expense of your personal beliefs or well-being, it’s time to re-evaluate your ‘yeses’.

Saying no when you need to is a form of self-care. Self-care involves being aware of your needs and knowing that they are as important as others’. When we take good care of ourselves, we are able to care for others better because we’re coming from a place of love rather than insecurity.

If you’ve always found it difficult to say ‘no’, don’t fret. Being able to assert yourself when needed comes with practice. Here are 5 simple things that Braiker recommends.

1. Find perspective.

Braiker writes, “[Be] aware of how often people around you say ‘no’ to each other from day to day. When you really pay attention, you’ll find that it happens all the time, and in most cases it’s no big deal.” It’s also useful to observe how they say no.

Remember that there’s nothing wrong with being assertive. It’s different from being aggressive. Assertiveness involves empathy and respect.

2. Control only what you can.

How people respond to ‘no’ may be a result of their own battles and insecurities. Take the attention off yourself, or in other words, don’t take things personally. We can’t control how others respond but we can control how we do.

3. Allow yourself more time.

We tend to think that immediate responses are necessary but that isn’t the case. You can simply say, “Let me check my calendar; I’ll get back to you” or “Let me check with my partner to see if we’re free”. This will ensure that you’re not pressured to give an automatic ‘yes’. Use that time to evaluate your intentions and feelings. It’ll allow you to make a calm and thoughtful decision you won’t regret.

4. Make it a less personal rejection.

Have a ‘policy’ and stick to it. For example, you can say, “Sorry, I don’t do Friday dinners as that’s my family time.” This makes it less about them and more about you.

5. Make a counteroffer (if you want to).

Sometimes we do want to say ‘yes’, just not to that particular thing. Take your time to think of an alternative you’ll be comfortable with. We should first be sure of what we can offer rather than back out later. When you’re ready, say, “That isn’t my forte but here’s what I can do instead.”

Need more reads about self-care? Here are some self-care tips if you've had a stressful workday and here's how we can be a friend to ourselves.

- The Mindful Company Team