How to Free Yourself by Saying No

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You can feel it in your soul.

You know you agree to too many things, but you’re not sure how to say no.

You don’t want people to think you’re rude or unkind.

You don’t want people to see you as needy, demanding or “high maintenance”.

You don’t want to let people down.

But deep down you know that you do too many things because you feel like you have to… not because you want to.

If this sound like you, rest assured that you are not alone. Many people fall into the pattern of people pleasing or saying yes too much.

The good news is there is something you can do about it.

We do can this by doing a little introspection and finding out why saying “no” is so hard in the first place.

Why is it difficult to say no?

Saying yes too much or being “too nice” is something we learn in childhood.

Most of us (myself included) grew up in homes where people pleasing was a normal part of life. As children we learn these habits and later model them in our adult lives.

I grew up with a mother who was generous to a fault. She had a huge heart and always put everyone else before herself.

People came to her for advice, favors or help all the time and I don’t remember her ever saying no.

What I didn’t realize was that I was eventually going to turn into my mom. Ok, not literally. But I did pick up a lot of her “nice” habits.

Don’t get me wrong, being generous and nice is great.

The problem comes in when you start doing things for other people at the expense of yourself and your own needs.

Here is this another way to think about it…

“When we were trained to be nice growing up, we learned that certain feelings are acceptable, such as happiness, gladness, gratitude and excitement. Other feelings, like sadness and fear are less acceptable and should be kept to a minimum. Other feelings, like anger and aggression, are in their own category and never OK.” -Dr. Aziz Gazipura

When we do get into a situation where we disagree with someone, or heaven forbid even experience frustration, it is a threat to our perceived identity.

“I’m a good person” you might think to yourself… “I’m not mean or angry, I shouldn’t be like this”.

Thoughts like this can lead to feelings of guilt, shame and eventually… a habit of saying yes when you really want to say no.

You can free yourself from this by honoring your own needs and setting healthy boundaries.

‘No’ is hard to say, but the more you do it the easier it becomes.

How to Say No Examples

  1. Simply say “no”. No wavering. No second guessing. Just No.
  2. I won’t be able to make it; I have another commitment.
  3. Thank you, I’m not able to take that on right now.
  4. Thanks for thinking of me, but I have to say no.
  5. While I loved being a part of the last presentation, public speaking really isn’t my thing, so I won’t do it this year.
  6. I’m sorry, I can’t make it.
  7. Thank you for thinking of me for this project. I can’t take more work on right now but would love to be considered for other things in the future.
  8. That sounds really interesting, and I’d be happy to do it — but that means I won’t be able to submit the report by Friday. Can we talk about re-prioritizing some of my responsibilities?
  9. A girls trip sounds fun and I’d love to go, but I won’t have the time to swing it this year.
  10. Your proposal is intriguing and I’m glad you brought it up, but it’s not a good fit for us.

That last phrase borrows from a longtime contributor to the venerable New Yorker, John McPhee

Avoid This Common Pitfall

When you’re saying no, you’ll want to avoid one common pitfall: saying too much.

Especially when you are feeling nervous or uncomfortable, you’re more likely to go into a lot of detail. While you may be genuine, adding too much explanation makes you look like your’e making excuses or being insincere.

Dr. Aziz Gazipura describes it like this…

“Qualifiers are phrases we use before or after we speak up that are designed to soften what we say. When we’re insecure we can begin to end our statement with qualifiers that are apologetic and submissive. Some examples are:

  • I’m sorry, to put this out there, but… that’s just my opinion.
  • You’ll probably think this is wrong, but… I don’t know as much about this as you do.
  • I have an idea. It might not work, but… I don’t know”.

Observe when you over-explain or use qualifiers. Are you around certain people? Or in certain situations?

Think about what you wish you could do differently and practice.

Keep your ‘no’ clear and concise. The way you say ‘no’ is going to depend on the situation and the person you’re talking to. But more often than not, you’ll be able to keep it short and sweet.

Be Your Authentic Self

It takes a lot of courage to come to terms with that struggle, make the changes necessary to start to heal, and to establish new boundaries. But when you do, it is SO worth it.

You don’t have to go through life feeling overwhelmed and overextended because you’ve said yes to too many things.

You don’t have to live with guilt for saying no.

You have the power to create a life that is balanced, peaceful and fulfilling. And with practice, you might just be surprised at how fast you see positive results.

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