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The Art Of Saying 'NO': Breaking The 'Can-Do' Curse

Feeling stressed?

By Elaine SiheraPublished 4 months ago 4 min read
Image by Ikhsan Sugiarto

On Christmas Day, or whenever more people than usual get together, it can be stressful for the hosts with all the demands that are likely to be placed upon them. Thy want everything o be right, and everyone to be happy, and my guess is that some people would be saying 'YES' to certain requests they believe are unreasonable, yet feeling impotent to do anything about it because of the desire to appear caring and empathetic. Yet, that does not help them to be authentic and sincere.

So many of us find it difficult to be authentic when dealing with others whom we are either trying to impress, or we don’t want to hurt. We readily consent to things we are not happy about, especially when we are dating, or have been in a long relationship where we're being taken for granted, without recognising the eventual consequences to us.

So why do we do it?

The two main reasons why we might say ‘Yes’ when we want to say ‘No’ are a lack of confidence and a desire for approval.

When we lack confidence we are deprived of the willpower to be assertive, to be consistent and to actually seek what we want because we fear the consequences of what saying ‘No’ might bring. We don’t want to ‘hurt’ or ‘upset’ anyone, so we hurt ourselves instead. We are not strong enough to stand up for our own rights and thus allow others to dictate the pace, regardless of how unhappy or uncomfortable we might feel.

We might also lack the skills to deal with someone who is more socially adept, or someone we fear, respect or admire; one who has higher status or influence over us. Hence we are more willing to say ‘Yes’ for a quiet life, even when we instinctively feel that response it to be wrong. It might please other people, but it is likely to leave us feeling frustrated and dissatisfied with our lives, because while saying ‘Yes’ might make someone else happy, if we are yearning to say ‘No’, we do ourselves no service and create a lot of stress and confusion in the process.

The second reason, a desire for approval, stems from being in controlling environments: either with parents, spouses and even bosses, where one feels a kind of emotional pressure to conform or toe the line. Wherever there is control, there is a desire to please through fear and repression. As we are likely to be expected to do as we are told, the only way we can feel included and valued is by pleasing the significant others around us. That might work for that particular moment in time, or for that situation, but it really keeps us feeling inadequate and unhappy with ourselves. Worse still, it makes us even less empowered each time we go against our own needs and desires.

By Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Learning to Say 'NO'

Every decision we make carries a responsibility to face the consequences of that decision. Only by facing the consequences of our actions can we say what we mean and stick by it, and feel better for it, too. However, the more we seek approval by simply pleasing others, the less fulfilled we will feel, and the more frustrating life will appear to be. Most important, we soon lose our own integrity because it is difficult to be honest with others when we are not even being honest with ourselves.

Saying 'No' can be difficult but its a crucial skill for setting boundaries, managing your time, and prioritising your well-being. Here are some ways to help you decline unhelpful requests more confidently and effectively:

* Know your value: Remind yourself that your time and energy are precious, and saying 'NO' can allow you to focus on what's truly important.

* Prioritise: Identify your priorities and commitments so you can confidently decline requests that don't align with them.

* Practise Saying 'No': It can feel awkward at first, but practising beforehand can build your confidence. Rehearse phrases and a confident tone with a friend, or in front of a mirror. Be direct and clear: A simple "No, thank you" is often sufficient. You don't need to justify your decision.

* Set boundaries and expectations: Decide what your limits are and be firm about adhering to them, even with close friends or family. If you need to reschedule or offer a different solution, clearly communicate your time frame and availability. If possible, suggest another way to participate or help, if declining feels a bit harsh.

* Express gratitude: While declining, you can show appreciation for the offer or invitation, especially for the person's thought behind it.

If there are any pushbacks:

* Anticipate guilt trips: Some people might try to make you feel bad for saying 'No'. Be prepared to calmly reiterate your decision.

* Stick to your guns: Don't let others pressure you into changing your mind. Repeat your "No" with confidence and clarity.

* Offer an explanation (optional): If necessary, you can briefly explain your reason for declining, but don't feel obligated to give a detailed excuse.

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About the Creator

Elaine Sihera

British Empowerment Coach/Public speaker/DEI Consultant. Author: The New Theory of Confidence and 7 Steps To Finding And Keeping 'The One'!. Graduate/Doctor of Open Univ; Postgrad Cambridge Univ. Keen on motivation, relationships and books.

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