Most of us struggle with saying the word ‘no‘:
Can you help me with something? Do you want to grab dinner some time? Have you got a minute?
Yes darling, demands on your time are constant and never ending. Just when you think you’ve ducked out of something you didn’t want to do, a whole new request comes flying your way from friends, colleagues, family, pets, the electricity company, the list goes on and on.
But all of these are easy to navigate with just one small and easy tool – the word no.
So, given that we all learn that word fairly early in life, why does it feel so monumentally difficult to use it?
Why Saying No Is So Hard
Saying no can feel like a huge and awkward event. Especially if you’re somebody who usually tends to say yes. Saying no can make people annoyed, can hurt feelings and (and here’s the real crux of the matter), saying no can make you seem less amenable, less friendly and let’s be honest, less likeable. Saying yes and being always available to people makes you ‘nice’. It’s what women are trained for since birth. It’s helpful, it’s friendly, it’s not intimidating and it’s what other people want to hear. But the problem is, if it’s not what you really want to say, then it’s not genuine.
How many times have you seethed with internal frustration and resentment because you have to drag yourself out of the house for yet another meet up with that friend who you don’t really get along with, but who seems to really want to meet up with you? And what can you do when they send you a text saying ‘when are you next free?’ There’s no way of getting out of that one.
Except, there is. Just say no.
Sure, it might feel awkward, but you’re entirely entitled to return a message that says ‘I’m actually not really feeling like socialising at the moment. Think I’ll pass on this one,’ or, ‘I’m not really free for a while and on the evenings I do have free I think I would just like to go to yoga or chill out.’
Saying No is Honesty
Sound like a foreign concept? Hey, it’s just honest, and more than being honest, it’s also pretty clear. It’s a no. It’s not a maybe, or a ‘yeah, I guess so’. It’s not a, hey, the doors a little bit open for you persuade me if you really want to, or a, ‘gosh, I’m so sorry, I’ll reply later as I’m at work right now’ followed by radio silence. Clarity is kindness. Lack of clarity is not kind. And going against your own desires and wishes to please other people, well, that’s unkind to yourself AND to the person you’re fooling.
Cut The Crap, Say No
So here it is – learn to say no. Learn to ask yourself this question on a regular basis – ‘what do I not have space for in my life right now’? There’s usually something that is tugging us down, feeling obligatory and not really working for us. So get rid. Say no. Clear out your schedule and keep to the things that really serve you or that you feel really committed to. Learn to enjoy the sound of your feet as you walk away from the things that don’t serve you.
A quick word of warning – if you’ve been a yes person up until this point, some friends really won’t like your ‘no’. It can be a tough change for them, and that’s ok. You’re changing. Maybe they will adjust their expectations and learn to come along for the ride, or maybe they won’t. That’s all ok. Sometimes our personal growth and evolution means old relationships and friendships no longer serve us. There’s no need to burn bridges. Just tell your truth, be meaningful in your ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ and see what’s still there at the end of the process. If you only have one friend left standing and that one friend really respects your boundaries and understands who you are and what you need in life, then that’s one awesome friendship to build from.