The art of saying “no”

emotional health weekly affirmation Aug 20, 2018

The art of saying no

We live in a world that moves fast and feels busy. Learning to say no to the things that don’t support our goals or bring us joy is essential to making room in our lives for the things that really matter to us. Have you ever said no to someone but they didn’t seem to hear it? Or have you thought you declined to do something or be somewhere but then someone expected you? Many of us struggle to say no. We don’t know quite how to say no, we don’t give ourselves permission to say no or people don’t hear us when we do say no. There is actually an art of saying no.

Let go of obligation…even for the fun stuff.

While we may have things we are actually obligated to do in our work lives, our personal lives don’t have to be influenced by obligation. I don’t know about you, but I want to spend time with people who want to spend time with me. I would never want someone to accept a dinner invitation because they felt obligated. Using this perspective helps me to say no when something doesn’t work in my schedule or I don’t have a genuine desire to go.

Accepting only fun invitations that you truly want to accept means that you arrive at those events energized, positive and engaged. This is where the magic in relationships happens. Friendships are formed and deepened. You feel more joyful. Perhaps most importantly, when you arrive, your friends and family know you genuinely want to be there.

Saying no to the things that don’t bring you joy often eases stress. You can put energy into the things that truly do bring you joy. This matters even when we are talking about social engagements and fun activities.

Symptoms of an issue saying “no”

Feeling resentful, tapped out, exhausted, or unappreciated are symptoms of an issue saying no. When you continue to agree to do things you don’t genuinely want to do or have time to do, it takes a toll on you physically, emotionally and spiritually. Having those feelings isn’t a bad thing, it’s just an opportunity to take a look at a few things in your life.

Words matter

Saying no is something many of us don’t feel comfortable doing. Rather than being clear and firm while saying, “No, that won’t work for me”, many of us dance around the no. We say things like “I’m not sure I can be there” or “I would but….(Detail, detail, detail).

The problem with saying “I’m not sure I can make it” instead of “no, that won’t work for me” or “no, I can’t be there” is that it leaves doubt in the other person’s mind. They might still think there is a chance you *can* make it. Perhaps they think you are trying to figure something out. Either way, it isn’t really the same as saying “no”.

When you give multiple details about why you can’t do something, the other person often switches into problem-solving mode. I’m totally guilty of this. In fact, having had this recently happen is what made this end up in my blog this week. I tried to re-work a schedule issue when what the person really meant was “no, I don’t want to do that” rather than ” no, I would but I can’t figure out how to make it work”.

Saying “no” earns respect

Think about the people in your life who have firm boundaries. Very likely you have a high level of respect for these people. You know that when you spend time together, they really want to be there with you.

When you get good at saying no; you have more energy and vitality. The reason is that you aren’t leaking your own energy spending time on something that you don’t feel you can or want to do. You’ll have more respect for yourself and that helps other relationships. Your relationships can serve as a mirror of who you are and how you interact with the world. If no one around you is saying no perhaps it’s time to look at your own ability to say no.


Say yes when you really want to

Saying “yes” to things that truly bring you joy is equally important to saying no to the things that don’t bring you joy. You need to balance your work obligations with things in your personal life that make you laugh, allow you to smile, bring you joy and that you look forward to doing. Fill your own cup with activities and people you love.

If you need someone to give you permission to say no to the things that don’t bring you joy so that you can say yes to the things that do bring you joy, consider this blog post that permission. May you fill your life with activities and people who fill your cup and bring you joy.