If you’re anything like me, and a lot of the people I know, you probably like to be helpful and willing, and to say ‘Yes’ when you are asked to do something, either at home or at work. And this is generally a good trait, and helps to make the world go round.
Sometimes this habit of always saying ‘Yes’ can do more harm than good. You can end up over-committed, working late, running around trying to squeeze in everything you said you would do and not let anyone down. Ending up stressed, tired out, frustrated and neglecting the things that you want, in an effort to do what everyone else wants.
So maybe it’s time to learn how to say ‘No’…?
I’m learning to say ‘No’ when I think that I really can’t fit in that extra thing; when I feel maybe someone is expecting too much of me or taking me for granted; or when I feel that something just wouldn’t be a good idea for me. It’s not easy at first. It’s a hard habit to break and I have sometimes felt guilty, or worried that someone will be offended or upset, particularly when it comes to family.
But it gets easier and it is so liberating. Time and energy are limited and precious resources. There is only so much to go around and you can make yourself ill trying to stretch things too far. Choosing what’s best for you, choosing what you can cope with and saying ‘No’ to anything beyond that will ease your stress, free up your time and ultimately be a much healthier choice for you.
Saying "No" at Work
Saying ‘No’ to every request, and putting limits on your availability, can also bring dividends in the workplace. Focusing on a few key tasks and prioritizing these will make you more productive and effective. If you are prone to answering work emails late at night and at weekends, try setting yourself a cut-off point each day, after which you don’t look at your emails until the next day. This can be difficult to do, as you may feel that you will be thought less of at work, but in fact if you asked you would probably find that your employer is not actually expecting you to reply at 10.00 pm!
Talk to your boss and get clarification on what hours you are expected to work and whether there is an expectation that you make yourself available in the evening and at weekends. Being too available and passive could lead to you being viewed as a doormat. But be careful not to be overly aggressive in your response. Assert yourself in a positive, open and helpful way, and offer clarity over when you will have a task completed. If you are faced with conflicting priorities, offer up your ideas for which tasks are more important and which can be delegated or done later.
Read on for a few tips on how to approach saying ‘No’ more often:
A Simple "No" is Enough
Be direct, brief and clear. Look them in the eye, say your ‘no’ in a clear and unwavering way, then break off eye contact so they know that’s it. There is no need to justify yourself or over-explain, just keep it simple. Too much explaining will make you look defensive or open to persuasion.
Be Clear on What You Can and Can't Do
Ask questions to be sure you understand what is being asked of you, before you give your response. This will show that you are not being arbitrary in your decision, or unwilling to help, but just that you cannot always drop everything you have already agreed to do for a new request.
Give a Reason
Giving a reason increases the chances of someone accepting your ‘No’. However, giving a whole list of reasons begins to look like excuses and undermines your stance.
Rinse and Repeat
You will probably have to say ‘No’ more than once before it is accepted. Don’t get drawn into complicated explanations or discussions, though. Stick to your original, concise reason and refusal and it will be accepted. It might take up to three times, but by then it will be clear you mean what you say.
So there you have it. Whether you are talking about family, social obligations, work demands, or whatever, you won’t do yourself any favours by being too willing and too available all the time, but are more likely to be taken for granted and simply increase expectations that you will fall into line. So, gently but firmly, follow the advice above to show that you have boundaries and will stick to them. Say ‘No’ when you feel it is in your own best interests and you are happy with your decision, and people will respect you more for it.
Take care of yourself.
My name is Tina Taylor and I run Life Hypnotherapy 1-2-1, a hypnotherapy practice in Hull.