Perhaps you’re already overworked and you’ve been asked to take on an extra workload, or maybe you’ve been asked to work late to help with an assignment. Whatever the reason, if saying yes is causing you stress and making you resentful, then it’s probably time to learn to say no.
Ongoing negative thoughts and feelings can put a great amount of pressure on our mind and body and will eventually take their toll, resulting in physical side effects such as headaches, heart palpitations and nausea. If these symptoms are left untreated, you are putting yourself at greater risk of heart disease, ulcers and depression.
Why do we find it so difficult to say no?There are many reasons why we might find it hard to say no:
- Fear of rejection
- We don’t want to appear rude, unkind or selfish
- We don’t want to upset or make people angry
- We don’t want to cause an argument
- We’re afraid of losing our job
Steve Peters, author of The Chimp Paradox, rationalises our inner emotions and explains why we make hasty decisions. If you struggle with saying no and suffer from anxiety and stress because of it, this book can help you gain a clearer perspective on your thoughts and emotions and it offers ways to become more confident and assertive.
Things to remember when saying no
- It doesn’t make you a bad person
- You’re not responsible for other people’s reactions
- Try not to worry about what people think
- Value yourself
- Remember how much stress and resentment saying yes has caused you in the past
- You are within your rights to say no
- What do you gain from saying yes? Does the positive outweigh the negative?
How can we learn to say no confidently?It’s always tempting to begin with “I’m sorry but…” and to rustle up a tangled web of lies, however, this can make saying no even more difficult. You can be direct and confident without appearing rude and even though it might feel awkward and uncomfortable to begin with, the more you practise, the easier it will become.
Practise saying the words out loud to yourself or to a friend, making sure you remain polite yet self-assured at the same time. You could try something along the lines of; “I appreciate you asking me to help with the project, but I already have plans for that evening”.
If you feel that saying yes on this particular occasion would benefit you, maybe suggest a different time when it’s more convenient for you; “I would love to help but Tuesday isn’t good for me. Would Thursday be an option instead?”.
When we’re asked to do something that we don’t want to do, we might feel under pressure to say we’ll think about it, but this will only prolong the worry and anxiety. Imagine all the positive feelings you’ll experience once you have said no: self-confidence, empowerment, freedom and relief.
Remember that it’s impossible to please everyone all the time and by putting ourselves first and not spreading ourselves too thinly, we are able to focus better on the tasks we do say yes to and we’ll be less susceptible to negative thoughts and emotions.