It happens very often to a lot of people. We are thinking about it, it is at the tip of our tongue, we know is justified, but we cannot say it! What I am talking about? That little word with just 2 letters but with so much meaning.
You cannot say “NO” to your manager that asks you to do something that is not under your responsibilities, you cannot say NO to your child when they ask for something expensive, you cannot say NO for things you do not want to do…and the list can go on forever.
Despite our disagreement and for the reasons we explain below, we cannot deny or set a limit to what we can and we want to do and what not. The result is that we feel that we do not define our lives and that we are essentially victims of others. What is the solution? To learn to say “no” when appropriate. Easy to say – hard to do – but the results above everything else will impress yourself. Here are some practical ways to learn how to deny or reject something that you do not want to do.
Why is hard to say “no”?
We have not learnt to demand what we want or do not want, so we adopt a totally passive behaviour which leads us to accept everything they ask and suggest, even when we do not agree.
We believe that when we say no we will be considered rude or even bad persons.
We believe that when we say “yes” we will be more accepted and loved by others.
We are afraid that everything will be destroyed and collapse, even if our denial is fully justified.
We do not want to disappoint or hurt our friends, loved ones, relatives, strangers or colleagues.
How to say no
Find your limits
First you need to understand yourself better. Define your needs, desires and limits. It is important to understand where does your “yes” and “no” begin and end. When should you definitely say ‘no’ and when does a ‘yes’ that you say today should become a ‘no’?
Take some time before answering a question
Don’t rush to answer a question. For example, let’s suppose that a friend who is a careless driver asks you to lend her your car for a weekend. Instead of giving a straightforward answer immediately, you can tell her that you need some time to think about it. This will help you refuse politely and disarmingly, avoiding to talk aggressively.
Even in the cases that you are sure for your answer, taking some time to think can help you make a list of pros and cons and be more confident before saying a “yes” or “no.”
Take good opportunities to practice your denial
For example, the manager asks you to stay for 1 more hour at work but you have already bought tickets for the theatre. This is your chance to finally say “no.” You will not get fired -when you are otherwise consistent- for this justified refusal. Such circumstances are very good opportunities to practice denial and to realize that “no” will not destroy your world.
Respect your self-esteem
Believe in yourself and capabilities. Saying no to things you are ‘supposed to do’ is not the end of the world. For example, last year you organized a party for your best friend but this year you have no such mood (for whatever reasons). Rather than forcing yourself to do something you do not want you can refuse politely. You will not lose your friends but you will gain self-esteem.
Instead of rejecting something, sometimes it is more appropriate to deny it but at the same time make an alternative proposal. For example, you get a call from your parents to eat together this Sunday. The problem is that this Sunday you already decided to stay in bed and relax until lunchtime. You can say that you have arranged something else and suggest as an alternative to go for a coffee together in the afternoon. This way you will not disappoint your parents and you will have no regrets.
Congratulate yourself; you have finally managed to say “no”! Always be proud of your progress even if it seems minimal. That’s the only way to reach higher levels of denial. Soon you will be able to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ depending on your mood and desire.
Support your decisions
It’s important to support your decisions. When you refuse or deny something you must apply your decision with stability and consistency. This is the only way to gain the respect of others and yourself.