Saying no is hard, and often we say it, we then feel immense guilt. The trouble is as a society we are moulded to be compliant. Yes people. We are raised to stay in line and not rebel against what is asked from us. This makes us easy, as a population, to control.
The problem comes when we do have to say no for whatever reason. Guilt normally ensues. To read more about the 5 reasons we feel guilt click here. I would recommend reading about guilt first before continuing.
It’s worth remembering that sometimes no is the right thing to say. For example if someone wanted you to help them do something dangerous or illegal. Then saying no would keep you safe and hopefully deter the person from doing it without help. If a colleague or boss is asking you to do more than you can handle saying no can set an example to them that there is a limit to what you should expect from an employee.
1. When to say no
Thinking about an appropriate time to say no is something we should consider. It could be that we are asked to do something completely legitimate so you say, “let me think about it”. Only to decide that you cannot (for whatever reason) do it. When to let the person down should be considered. For example you are asked by your long-term boyfriend to move in together, so you ask to be given time to think about it. The you decide after much consideration that its not what you want.
An appropriate time to say no wouldn’t be after an argument or at a time the person is already feeling sad. You would time it so you had some time together that’s been fun or happy, then you would broach the subject. Softening the blow so to speak, but really its using your heart and showing that whilst it is a no you are being as kind as you can be.
No can also be a ‘not right now’ because you are busy with something that’s more of a priority, so it can be a temporary no, rather than an outright one.
2. Why you say no
When someone asks something of you that will cause you pain or distress, then you say no without fear or guilt. You should never ever put yourself at risk just to please another. “What you are asking me to do may end up with me getting hurt or worst case scenario in trouble, i cannot put myself at risk”. Do not apologise for this, its not acceptable to be asked to do something morally wrong. Be clear on why you won’t and stick to it.
When you are asked to do something but you are busy, then say no and give your legitimate reason. “i would love to help you but i am working on that day”. You are showing that if you were not already busy you would have helped them.
3. How to say no
Tone is so important when you say no. Not just voice tone but also conversation tone. Getting the middle ground between honouring an interest in what the person has asked of you, but also being firm in your no is crucial. In general no one likes to be told no, especially if the person feels they have the right to expect they should be helped, perhaps because you never say no or they just are the kind of person who is quite entitled in general.
What you don’t want is the person trying to manipulate you into saying yes to their request. This is where being firm but fair in your tone will help. Omitting hurtful words when saying no, especially if the request is unfair will make the situation feel less like it will descend into chaos. good points to remember are:
- Learning to say no without being deliberately hurtful.
- Learning to say no whilst being respectful to the persons feelings.
- Learning to be firm but fair when saying no.
Once you have said no, you need to stick to this. Boundaries are important to maintain once they have been set. Not only so the other person knows where they stand, but also so you are not assumed to be someone who says no but means yes. Of course there may be situations where you have said no through no fault of your own but then realised you can actually help, so be honest and say so. “i couldn’t help because [x,y or z] but now that’s resolved i can if you still need me to”.
Saying no for whatever reasons doesn’t always have to lead to you feeling bad. In fact the only person that can make you feel bad is yourself. You have full control in responding to every situation no matter what is said. If you allow a situation to trigger you and make you feel a negative emotion, this can be a great opportunity to look at the reasons behind it and how to heal these.
Wounds come up to be healed and feeling guilt or bad is never going to heal them. Being proactive, identifying them, accepting them and finding a way to navigate them will not only lead to healing, but also to the likelihood of you no longer feeling discomfort when saying no.
How do you feel about saying no? Is it something that comes easily or is it something you need to work on? Let us know in the comments below.