The power of saying no

Habitomic Journalist
Habitomic Journalist

For many people, it can be difficult to know how to set boundaries or say “no” to others. This can be especially challenging for those who self-identify as people-pleasers.
Learning how to set boundaries and how to say “no” is the key to sustaining a healthy relationship with yourself and others.
When we say “yes” to everything and do not set boundaries with people, we often feel stressed, overwhelmed, and burned out. Most of us want to be well-liked and to please other people.
It can be difficult to turn down opportunities or requests that others have made of us. It may also be challenging to set limits with difficult people. Learning about yourself and finding your inner power is crucial to your health and wellbeing.
Consider setting boundaries around goals you have for yourself. For example, if one of your goals is to create a better work-life balance, you may say “no” to a call or meeting outside your normal work hours using some of the techniques will discuss in the following.
It’s helpful to remember that when you say “no” to things, it frees up your time to focus on the pursuits that truly energize and excite you. Having good boundaries also enables you to experience less stress and to follow your life’s passion and purpose.
Saying yes or no to something can also be effective in something as small as your social media. Understand that not everyone is a friend and it’s ok to say no to a friend request. Sometimes these small steps toward setting boundaries can dramatically improve your mental health.
Boundaries can be flexible when appropriate. Take time to reassess your boundaries, taking into account the pros and cons. And remember boundaries do not have to be permanent.

Why do we say no?

One of the most difficult things about saying no is getting FOMO (fear of missing out). But let’s think about the benefits of saying no. As long as you don’t go overboard, it’s a chance for you to be more productive.
Here are five benefits of saying no:
1. Time to do whatever you’ve put on the back burner.
2. Power to be more in control of your life.
3. Confidence to say no more often. The first time is the hardest.
4. Safety from overextending yourself.
5. Opportunities you didn’t even know were out there. Since you are more available, you’ll find them!

How to properly say no.

1. Practice tuning into your inner sense of “yes” and “no.”

The first step in learning how to set boundaries and say no is to try to uncover what your limits and guidelines are.
We all have an inner sense of wisdom, which intuitively tells us when something is a “yes” or a “no.” The problem arises when we ignore or argue with that inner voice. If you are not used to tuning into your intuition, it is important to practice paying attention to how you are feeling in the moment.   Using tools such as meditation and mindfulness is one way to practice paying attention to your thoughts and feelings at the moment.

2. Learn how to tolerate the reactions of others.

The reality is that when you set boundaries with people, they may not always have a pleasant reaction. However, you still can work to firmly maintain the boundaries that you have set.
Setting boundaries with people can help to improve your relationships in the long run. If you do not respect your boundaries (perhaps in fear of someone else’s reaction), this is likely to lead to bitterness and resentment over time. The people who you want to surround yourself with are those who will respect your boundaries, even if initially they feel upset or disappointed.

3. Engage in acts of compassionate self-care.

If you want to be giving and compassionate towards others, you must apply the same compassion towards yourself.
We all have different things that feel relaxing and pleasurable for us, so pick what works best for you. Some ideas for self-care include cooking yourself a good meal, lighting candles, reading a book just for fun, taking a walk, doing a yoga class, or spending time with your pets. If need be, you can even put it in your planner, as a way to hold yourself accountable.

4. Be true to yourself, your convictions, and your priorities.

Most of the time we feel guilty saying no when we don’t have a firm grasp on our priorities and convictions.
It’s important to stay true to our convictions; however, there is a fine line between following our convictions and using them as an excuse to be self-focused to the point of being no earthly good. Don’t turn down every request or opportunity.

5. Think before answering.

Think for a moment before giving your answer. You need to weigh your answer with your convictions and priorities. You also don’t want to answer so fast that it’s obvious that no matter what the person(s) would ever ask you, your answer would be no.
While you’re thinking, consider your convictions and priorities, and then either say yes or no.
If you know what your answer is going to be, give it when you’re asked. Don’t tell them that you’ll get back to them just to put off saying no.
If you’re considering saying yes but you need to check on something first, tell them that and let them know when they can expect your answer.
Don’t wimp out and be vague with your answer to avoid hurting their feelings. It raises false hope for them, makes you seem indecisive, and slows down their process of determining who is going to be helping.

6. Be quick and honest.

Tell the person you have other commitments and can’t do it, and politely decline right away. That way you don’t hold up anyone else’s plans.

7. Suggest an alternative.

Name another person who might be able to take your place.

8. Ask for a raincheck.

Sometimes we do want to do something but just don’t have the time right then. Make a plan for the future so you still show good faith.
It’s a good idea to have criteria for what you say yes to and what you say no to. This helps decision-making easier. Here are four questions to ask yourself before you decide:
• Do I truly want to do this?
• What do I gain out of doing this task or attending this function?
• What has this person done for me lately?
• What else will I do with my time if I don’t do this?

The sandwich method to say no

One of the first steps to harnessing the power of no is to find a way to say no that feels natural and authentic for you.
A sandwich method is an approach that involves sandwiching something that individuals may consider negative between two positives. Tell the person something positive followed by the no and end with something supportive or positive.
For example: “Thank you for inviting me. I appreciate you including me and being thoughtful; however, I won’t be able to make it. I would still really enjoy meeting up with you. I’ll look at my schedule for some dates I’m available, so we can spend some time together.”
You may also want to reflect and figure out why you’re saying no to something. Reflecting on your feelings, understanding why no might help you, and recognizing behavioral patterns can all help you feel more confident in saying no.

In summary, here’s a five-part formula for saying no:
1.) Start with a compliment if one fits the situation.
2.) Give your answer.
3.) Say thank you.
4.) Encourage the person.
5.) Change the subject or excuse yourself.

The bottom line

Saying no typically feels awkward and takes practice. Once you overcome your fear of saying no, you’ll realize how easy it is! Try not to substitute ways to be agreeable. Go ahead and say no to requests that don’t work for you or meet your needs.