It’s easy to fall into the habit of saying “yes”– but when it imposes on your well-being, sometimes it is instead better to say “no”.
By Carol L. Rickard
While many of us have discovered that helping others is one of the best parts of life, learning how to say no when you’re overburdened (or getting there) is a great self-care tool that you can learn.
You’ve no doubt encountered times when agreeing to do a favor made you unable to complete your own task or took time away from taking care of yourself (missing a doctor’s appointment, skipping meals, or not getting enough sleep are some examples). Still, we all face fears about saying no—fears about hurting feelings and being disliked. And some of us have never learned how to say no based on our childhoods or roles growing up.
Here are a few techniques to help you say no when you absolutely have to. Doing so requires you to recognize when you’re overloaded with things to do, learn some quick techniques that will help you decline in certain situations, and practice actually saying no.
Strengthening Your “No Muscle”
You have within you a “no muscle” to help you decline favors and requests. Just like any muscle, this one can be strengthened with repetitive workouts and practicing certain techniques.
First, you need to learn to create a pause in your conversation: After someone asks a favor, sometimes “yes” seems to fly out of our mouths automatically, before we even have time to determine if we are really in a position to help. Instead of saying yes automatically when asked to do something, practice using this response: “I’ll get back to you.” The time you’ll use to think it through will be a great help to determine what your needs are as well, and how you want to respond–which “no” muscles you want to work out.
If saying yes imposes on your self-care … then you need to reflect on the art of saying no.
You can also try using the “un-no” answer. This technique lets you say no without using the word no. Try using these responses: “I am not able to” and “I have another commitment I’ve made, so I can’t.”
Finding More Ways to Say No
As you take time to decide whether you can help in each instance, remember to honor your head and heart. There are times when our heart wants to say yes, and yet our head knows it’s not in our best interest to do so. This might happen when someone without means asks you to take her somewhere, but doing so would make it difficult for you to get to your own appointment or complete your work, for example.
Here’s a technique that offers a way to acknowledge both your desire and regret: “I would love to help; I am just not able to.” Or, “I wish I could, however, I can’t change my appointment.” Adding “right now” works as well, as in “I just can’t right now,” if you are sure you can help another time.
Dealing With Fear
Many times, our hesitance in saying no is based on fear: fear of not being liked, fear of losing a friend. In this case, I recommend practicing the “Empty Chair Method” to become more comfortable saying no when you must. First, determine which response you want to make. Then, place a chair in front of you, imagine the person you need to speak to in the chair, and practice saying your response (chosen from those above, if you like). This technique lets you create a “mental recording,” which helps you overcome your fears.
Saying no is hard for a reason. Most of us want to help every time we’re asked; we want to feel that we’re the kind of person whom others can rely on; and we want to make a difference. But if saying yes imposes on your self-care—if you’re unable to complete your work, if your health is failing because of all the times you do favors— then you need to reflect on the art of saying no—and learn to do it gracefully, using some of these techniques. Your “no” muscle will help you build confidence and help you determine what the right response is. That way, you’ll be healthy enough to say yes in the future, both to yourself and others.
Printed as “The Art of Saying ‘No'”, Spring 2018
via Esperanza – Hope To Cope
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