Why can’t I say no?
It isn’t that easy to “just say no”. Saying no to people can be scarey, terrifying or just plain uncomfortable.
But, then, there are some people who don’t batter an eye-lid. Saying no is like exhaling, going for a wee or scratching an itch. It’s rolls off their tongue. They do it without any hestitation, without any fret or procrastination. Saying no for these people is a walk in the park.
For the rest of us, there are reasons why saying yes is the easier road to travel. You can avoid confrontation, escape stress and the anxiety of a possible disagreement. You can push away feelings of guilt and you reduce the risk of other’s disliking you.
When you struggle with saying no, your mind says “I can’t do that.” The idea of saying no seems too difficult or impossible. Your worries focus on “what if they get cross?” or “what if they think I’m being selfish?” Your mind might tell you that you “should always be helpful.”
What does your mind say to you when you think about saying no?
But, of course, there is a flip-side. There is nearly always a flip-side. When you never say no, you put yourself under more pressure. People learn that you’ll probably do what they ask and so they do it again….and again. You risk resenting people who ask you for help. You feel sad and lonely that no one notices what you want. You deny yourself the opportunity to learn to be more assertive and find out that it is OK to say No.
I used to find myself in this situation more than I do now. I remember a period when I was volunteering for some teaching work. This meant planning an event, organising attendees, advertising, venue management as well as writing the content. The trouble was that I didn’t really have the time and there were other things that I wanted to be getting on with. But, I felt too worried to say no. I had already said no to some other things, so my mind told me I “should say yes.” I was worried about being judged negatively (even though the other person involved had always shown understanding, compassion and reasonableness!). It kept worrying me. It weighed heavy on me. I’d put it off, which would drain me even more. I felt stuck!
Eventually, I did get around to it. It meant that other things I wanted to do suffered, which frustrated me. But, what I learned was that it is no good for anyone when I take on too much.
Here is what I’ve learned
Now, when I get asked if I want to do something, I pause. I take a moment to think it through before I respond. And this is what I want share with you. It’s my: Four step process for making choices when saying no is difficult.
Step 1 – WAIT. When you are approached or contacted to do something, before saying “yes”, say “let me think about it” or “I’ll have to check my workload (or diary)”. Give yourself a chance to think it through. Can I do this? Would I like to do this?
Step 2 – Speak your Choice. If the answer is no – communicate ‘no’ as early as possible in a truthful manner. If you don’t want to, say so. If you are not interested, say so. If you cannot due to a lack of time or resources, say so. Remind yourself that saying no sooner rather than later is fairer to them and kinder to you.
Step 3 – Ask for more information. If the answer is yes – get clear about why you want to to say yes. Is it because you want to be supportive, to be caring, giving or to connect with someone. Contact your deeper purposes and then discuss it with them. Find out in more detail what they require. See if you would like to do all of what they require or just part of it. Tell yourself you are allowed to say no to some parts of it. You might not have the time, the know-how or the desire. And that is OK.
Suggest someone else do part of it. Say when you can do it by so that they are clear you won’t be dropping everything. Set realistic expectations. Think realistically. When can you get it done? Identify other things you have and be honest with yourself what is possible.
Step 4 – Track your experience. When you do the task that you agreed to, try to do it mindfully. Notice your experience. Does it seem meaningful? Are you being how you want to be? What is your energy like? Is it vital or does it feel like a chore? Paying attention to your experience gives you important information. It tells you how enjoyable or rewarding it is. Sometimes what we think we’ll be good and what its like when we do it are different. Your mind might think you’ll find something fulfilling, but your experience tells you otherwise. Identify what you’ve learned and use it as a guide for making choices again in the future.
Please share or leave a comment if you have liked this article. Of course, you can always say no.