Have you ever said “yes” to do something and immediately regretted it? Your schedule is overbooked and you are not sure if you can complete it. The only reason that you said “yes” is because you were scared to hurt their feelings or that you might let them down. Or maybe it was because you thought someone else might screw up the task and you wanted to make sure that it got done right. Well I am one of those people. I agree to do something and I immediately resent it. I will stay awake at night dwelling on the task analyzing each tedious step. I will allow the task to put me in a bad mood until it is completed meanwhile dwelling on the burden that it is putting on my time.
People are this way with their personal lives also. I know people who have to be on every committee at church, coach every one of their kids ball teams, be the head of the PTA and then complain that they just don’t have any time for themselves. I also know people that can’t say “no” in their professional lives. They agree to be on every committee or focus group that comes up and then complain that they are so overwhelmed with work that they don’t think they can get it all done. Family time becomes work time while they try to get their large pile of uncompleted work finished. They agree to multiple tasks and responsibilities that are outside their job description that adds no value to their job or has any bearing on their future job promotion. Learning to say “no” is a skill that every overachiever should learn. It is like any other learned skill in that the more that you do it, the easier it becomes and the more comfortable you are in doing it.
Here are a few pointers in learning to say “no”:
- There is no shame in saying “no.” People will respect you for being honest and usually will quickly move on. If they continue to pressure you into saying “yes”, then politely explain to them that you feel like you wouldn’t be able to spend the proper amount of time that this project would require. This will make you a more dependable person because you can allocate more time to the tasks that you are already doing. So stop feeling guilty.
- Your health depends on it. As we age, it is important to de-stress our lives and direct more of our attention to things that we truly enjoy doing. The time in our lives that we worked 12 hour days has passed and is no longer required. It is alright to do this in your 20’s and 30’s but once you reach 50, it is time to eliminate the clutter in our lives and evaluate what is most important.
- Assess whether the task is doable. Will the task add value to my life? If I do it, what task will I not be getting done? Set boundaries in your mind for what you can accomplish without feeling resentful and stick to them. Do what is important to you, your family, or your job and so “no” to the rest.
- STOP IT! There was a skit on Mad TV a long time ago with Bob Newhart playing a therapist. His main cure for everything that stresses you is to just STOP IT. Quit trying to be the people pleaser and do what is going to make you happy or what is absolutely required. STOP doing the rest.
- Your decision effects others. Anything that you agree to do has the potential to take time away from your family or what you enjoy doing. Every action has a direct reaction on your relationship with the ones you love. Access whether doing the task is important or not.
- It builds confidence. If nothing else, saying “no” will build your self-confidence. It will make you feel empowered and in control of your life. You will have a new outlook on things and a better control over the things that you are already doing.
“Real freedom is saying “NO” without giving a reason.” – Amit Kalantri, Wealth of Words.
The learned skill of saying “no” should be used wisely. The power of “no” can alienate you from your peers but can also set you free to do the things that are important to you. Be firm but not rude and without guilt. Remember that you don’t have to have a reason to say “no”. Saying “no” shall set you FREE!