Hurray, you made it. This is the end of our four-part series on saying no. In the previous weeks, we covered some reasons why people struggle with saying no and we looked at boundaries and how we can use them to improve our ability to say no. Now we can put it all together to give solid resources you can use to help.
So, some guidelines to follow when saying no:
- Be polite: No thanks. I’m sorry I have to say no
- Trying using the word “not” instead: I am not able to do that right now. I am not interested.
- Don’t lie: be honest about why if you feel the need to say why, Lies can make is worse later on
- Provide an alternative: if your answer is no to only part of the request, say that and suggest a request you could say yes to
- Don’t over explain: You do not have to justify why you are saying no. There is a difference between giving a reason and justifying. Provide the reason clearly and simply stated
- Don’t be afraid to ask for time to think about it
- Don’t put off answering. If you think saying no will be easier tomorrow, you are wrong. Putting it off just leads to you dwelling in it further.
- Use body language to support your words: look at the person if you can when you say it. Don’t be looking at your feet as if you are ashamed of something.
- You have the right to change your mind. At the same time, share that you have changed your mind. Don’t leave people in a state of limbo wondering if you have lied to them when you said your first answer or which answer they should take seriously.
In addition to these guidelines, the first thing to remember about learning to say no, it is a skill. We need to practice that skill over and over again to become effective with it. Your brain is currently wired to say yes even though you want to say no. We need to overwrite the programming. In the previous weeks, you have laid the groundwork to do that. A simple trick to help with the reprogramming is repetition. Do it lots and it will become easier. Start with testing it out on little things. Choose situations that have little consequences for you where you can say no politely and respectfully without fear, like at restaurants when the server asks if you would like dessert or more to drink. Practice and practice the feeling of saying no. Keep a journal of how you feel each time you say no and how people respond to you. This will show your progress with it as your yuck feelings will diminish over time and you will have evidence that people will not hate you for saying no. It can also help you identify where you may need to set some boundaries.
An awesome tool for saying no, is called the positive no. It is a simple sentence structure that can lead to a positive outcome for everyone. It is structured with empathy + answer + work around.
I appreciate how much work you are putting into this project (empathy), however I need to decline (answer). I could help you with this other part of your project if you would like (work around)
Another effective tool is to sandwich your no between two positive statements. Say something positive about the request, then your answer followed by something positive.
I am flattered you thought of me. I have to say no at this time. I love your courage to take on this project.
In addition to these response structures you have your boundaries to fall back on. If you have planned even a rough draft of your boundaries you are better equipped to respond to requests. When the request comes in you can evaluate where it falls in your boundaries. If it is outside, you already know the answer is no and why you want to say no. If a friend asks to borrow your car you may have already determined that your material boundaries determine that you will only lend something you are not willing to lose. If you are not willing to lose your car you can answer your friend, with “I’m sorry, I can’t lend you my car. I can’t afford to be without it nor to buy a new one. Because of that I need to ensure I have it for a long time coming.”
Thank you for staying with us as we presented the art of saying no. Hopefully you have a better understanding of why no is such a difficult word for some people. Remember the struggle to say no comes from one of two places; unhelpful thoughts (people will hate me), and fuzzy/porous boundaries. As we showed there is evidence that saying no is a positive healthy way to behave in society. Challenging those unhelpful thoughts and clearly defining your boundaries can bring you closer to being comfortable saying no. And practice, train for those Olympics and reach for the gold in positive self-worth and respect for yourself. Do it over and over again. Before long you will see how easy it becomes and how much better you feel about yourself. Your relationships will probably thank you too. You will be teaching them how to treat you, so they can express how much they value and respect you. That is a better gift than lying to them and saying yes when you want to say no.
The worksheet for this entry are to help build you boundaries and keep track of the. here.
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