It’s one of the first words we learn as a child – “No”
As we grow older, we started saying the word. It helped, even as a child, to feel powerful – in control.
Then we may have heard things like “I am your parent, you cannot tell me no” followed by “I am your teacher, you cannot tell me no” then others around us started rejecting our no.
We allowed others to teach us that if we said no we couldn’t be their friend anymore. We wouldn’t be allowed in the club. In church we may hear that saying no may be wrong because “you could be missing out on an opportunity from God”. Slowly, over time, some people take this to heart and quit using the word at all.
The mindset becomes, ‘if I say yes they will like me and I will be a good person’
Is that you? It used to be me. I speak from the pain, the hurt, the guilt that came from the stress created by not using that simple word.
By saying ‘yes’ to others without any thought of its impact on myself or even the situation, I lived in a constant state of stress.
The medical community uses the word “stress” to take the blame for everything from obesity, to heart disease, to hypertension, to a hundred other conditions. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have heard my doctors use that term over the years. So anytime we can reduce stress, it’s a good thing.
Believe it or not, one major stress relief in your life lies in the ability to say that simple word: “No.”
Being told so often when not to say no, how do you know when we could say ‘no’?
Let’s start by considering the effects of saying ‘yes’.
1. First, ask yourself what value does saying ‘yes’ hold for you. Chances are saying ‘yes’ is going to involve a commitment of some kind. How would saying ‘yes’ affect other commitments? By saying ‘yes’ now are you going to have to say ‘no’ to something else later? Is this important enough for you to turn down something else? What will you gain by saying ‘yes’? What would you lose? A careful examination of your life will tell you if this is worthwhile or not.
- A ‘yes’ should enhance your happiness OR
- advance your career OR
- A ‘yes should have a positive impact on something you believe in deeply
You see, A yes without value is guaranteed to cause you stress. Ask yourself very seriously just why am I saying ‘yes.’
2. Consider what ‘yes’ is going to do to your current stress levels. By saying yes are you going to increase those stress levels? If so, by how much?
Stress is inherent in life. Chances are, taking on any new project is going to cause at least a little bit of stress. But there’s a big difference between the anxiety of a minor deadline and a nervous breakdown because you’ve taken on the project that no one else is taking seriously or is working on at all.
If you can’t live with the added stress, then it’s definitely time to say ‘no.’
3. Feeling guilty about this decision? If so, head for the hills. Anytime you agree to something out of guilt, you’ve got stress in spades. And it’s only going to get worse. I can hear you now saying ‘But I feel guilty if I say no”. By the same token you are also saying “I will feel stress and guilt if I say yes”. If you are going to feel the guilt anyway, definitely take a pass, say no – and then tell any residual guilt to get lost. Once you say no, it’s not your problem. It’s time to sing the Frozen song and “Let It Go”
4. Give it time. If you’re not sure about saying ‘yes,’ then tell the person asking that you want to sleep on it. By giving yourself extra time, you can consider very seriously the pros and cons of saying ‘yes’ – and also try to get a handle on just how much stress you’d be adding into your life by agreeing. Time gives distance, which gives a clearer view of a situation and makes it easier to say ‘no’ if it isn’t going to work out.
The problem with being agreeable, being a people pleaser by constantly saying yes, is that it’s very easy to find yourself in way over your head very quickly. Too much ‘yes’ means you’re swamped with work, your weekends are always overbooked, and you never have a moment to yourself. While this makes for a hilarious montage in the movies – in real life, it’s not so funny.
Too much stress in your life already means it’s time to look for some opportunities to say ‘no’ – even to things you’ve previously said ‘yes’ to. You know yourself better than anyone else will. Protect your peace of mind – and your health – by learning when and how to say ‘no.’
It’s time to change your perspective on saying ‘no’.