Do you ever find yourself saying yes just because you’d feel guilty if you said no? Afraid that you’ll hurt someone else’s feelings? Your colleagues or manager will get upset? People will judge you? You’re certainly not alone, especially if you tend to regret saying yes moments later. The thought of saying no cripples a lot of people – it’s more common than you think.
If you've been having difficulty saying no and tend to say yes far too often, we're about to fill you in on why saying no is a good thing. So, if you've been yearning to learn how to balance between the things you should be doing and the things you shouldn’t be doing, you're about to get a head start to master this vital life skill.
Why Is It Hard to Say ”No”?
First things first, let's discuss why many people have a hard time saying no in the first place because that's the most lingering question of all. And we're not talking about the times where we just have to do things we don't want to do because that happens to all of us. Instead, we're talking about those things that we agree to do that we don't even have to do.
Think marrying people we’re unsure about, accepting promotions we don’t want, accepting added tasks that aren’t part of a job description, having children before we’re ready, going out with a group of friends we aren’t particularly fond of, and much more. Why is it so hard to say no to these things?
Yes, it’s true that it’s difficult to hurt someone “on purpose” by falling short of their expectations and saying no to whatever their request is, but doesn’t saying yes to something we don’t really mean or want lead to the same end? And what about you? What happens when all you’re left with are resentment and regret when you don’t honor your own needs and feelings?
In his book, The Power of a Positive No: Save the Deal, Save the Relationship—and Still Say No, William Ury argues that we face an internal dilemma between connecting with our own sense of power and, at the same time, catering to, or fostering, relationships. Therefore, we either accommodate, attack, or avoid the situation.
Accommodation is when we say yes to something we really want to say no to. While seemingly providing us with a sense of peace, in the beginning, this action rapidly transforms into apprehension and resentment. In this scenario, we ultimately disregard our sense of power. The end result is usually spirals of negative self-talk, eventually causing anxiety, stress, and depression.
Then, when we attack, it's usually with those we love the most yet take for granted. This situation describes the few times where we say "no" aggressively and excessively tap into our power to compensate for the other times we've said yes unwillingly. Of course, here, power is prioritised over relationships.
Lastly, when we avoid, neither power nor relationships are prioritised – the situation is left unresolved. Basically, we amp up our own discomfort but don't provide any answers to the other party – we don't say either yes or no and just manage to get out of it altogether.
Evidently, all three scenarios aren't ideal, which is why it's essential to be able to say no to strike a balance between feeling empowered while preserving relationships with others. By saying no at the right times, we establish healthy boundaries between ourselves and other people.
If you think of it, all of the reasons behind you saying yes to anything you're not particularly interested in fall into one of those three categories. So whether it's because you don't want to sound rude, just to get along with others, to avoid getting into conflicts, or because it'll make you fit in easier, it certainly fits into those categories.
5 Reasons Why It’s Better to Say No
Now, with that being clarified and that we understand why it’s that difficult to say no sometimes, here’s why it’s much better for you to say no than it is to always say yes and what’s in it for you.
1. Taking Control of How Your Life Looks: Life Goes On
Whether you say yes or no, life will go on either way. Okay, how is that relevant?
Well, think of it this way: you can spend your entire life juggling between a million things and racing against time because you’re always saying yes, or you can spend the rest of your life moving at a reasonable pace, having time for yourself, and savouring every moment when you say no to the things that don’t matter. Which would you choose?
Of course, you'd choose to live your life on your own terms, and that's precisely what you should be doing. Remember that even if you say no today, it's not the end of the world! Life will continue to flow, move, and progress – it won't stop at that minute. And that's one of the best things about life – it goes on no matter what happens!
With that being so, always remind yourself that you have the final call when it comes to choices related to your life, so live the life you want and realise that it’s okay to say no. It’s a skill that’ll empower you to make choices that are in line with your aspirations and dreams.
2. Putting Yourself First: You Don’t Owe Anyone Anything
While sometimes, it feels like you’re obliged to do something whether you like it or not, the reality of the matter is that you’re not – you’re the one placing that pressure on yourself. But at the end of the day, you truly don’t owe anyone anything; you only owe it to yourself to be happy.
Remember that the next time your boss calls you after working hours, during your vacation, on weekends, and even unnecessarily in the middle of your working day every second. Of course, your duty at work is to be productive and efficient, but that doesn't mean you necessarily have to be "on-call" whenever your boss needs you.
And the same goes for every aspect of your life, not just the professional side.
For instance, yes, you may be married to a partner whom you love very much, but that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your passion, job, money, or anything else for that matter, just to express that love. Similarly, your parents did raise you, and you love them, but you're not supposed to set aside your goals to suit their stereotypical beliefs, and the list goes on.
In other words, you’re not subject to the whims of anyone, no matter who they are. Your journey in life is purely yours, and you need to make sure it’s enriching and satisfying enough for you so that you’re always fulfilled. Again, learn to say no when anything comes in the way of that!
3. Managing Your Priorities: You’re the Only One Who Knows Them
Every so often, it feels like the person in front of you who’s asking you for that specific something that you want to say no to is forcing you into it, but sometimes, they aren’t. Believe it or not, sometimes they’re really just asking if you can do it or not, and the answer is entirely up to you.
We’re frequently tempted to point fingers at others and assume that they know what we have on our plates and what we’d rather be doing or even what we dislike doing, but that isn’t always the case.
Your manager doesn't always have an overview of all the items on your to-do list, your partner doesn't always know that you're too exhausted to go out, and your friends don't necessarily know you don't like going out after work. So when you look at it that way, it becomes easier to see why it's even more important to say no because otherwise, no one will know how you feel.
You're the only one who can identify your priorities, the only one who knows them, and the only one who can make decisions based on them. Therefore, don't expect anyone to consider your priorities when they aren't even aware of them in the first place. Not to mention, you don't even have to share them with anyone, anyway.
The idea is just for you to say no to everything you’re not comfortable doing, not thrilled about doing, would rather do anything else in the world instead of it, and so on. If it’s not what you want and you have a different set of priorities for yourself, say no.
Take it from us: no one will (or can) tell you what you should be doing to be happy in your life. You’re the only one who can do that, so empower yourself to say no! Your life will depend on the choices you make, so choose to be happy and in control. Never let others' priorities eclipse yours –– say no mindfully, for the right reasons, and at the right time.
4. Valuing Your Sanity and Mental Health: No One Will Get Affected Except for You
Ask yourself: “why is it so easy for me to prioritise other people’s feelings over my own?” While you probably don’t confront yourself with this fact, it’s still a fact. When you choose to say yes to something you don’t want to do, you’re choosing to please others at the expense of your own fulfilment.
For that reason, you need to keep reminding yourself that no one will be affected by your decisions except yourself. If you take on that one extra task when you already have a full-to-the-brim to-do list and fail to deliver all your tasks on time, no one will get stressed out except you, and no one will take the blame instead of you.
Similarly, if you say yes to that outing after a long workday and get drunk, no one will go through the hangover on your behalf, and one will get a warning from work because you chose to say yes to your friends although deep down, you didn’t want to go.
What we’re trying to say is that you’re in it alone. Any negative consequences that result from your saying “yes” will only be experienced by you and no one else, so why would you choose to suffer? For the ask of what and who? Put yourself first!
5. Listening to Your Gut: People Will Always Have Something to Say
You know how the quote goes, "people are going to talk about you, no matter what you do, so you might as well do whatever brings you joy and live your best life"? That's a quote to live by because there's a lot of truth to it. Compared to how many times you've said yes in your life, how many of those did you get adequate credit for doing so? Probably not many.
Consequently, it isn’t always worth it to say yes. And on top of that, remember that people always judge, criticise, and have something to say. So even when you’re hesitant about saying no because you don’t want anyone to get upset, dislike you, or cause you trouble, remember that it’s not worth sweating over anyway.
Never base the decision of whether or not you say no on what other people will think because it'll get you nowhere, and it isn't worth the trouble you'll go through. Instead, listen to your gut and do what you feel is the right thing to do – whether that's saying yes or no. Put your needs first!
6. Unplugging From Stress
It's not always the case that you're saying yes because you feel forced to, right? Sometimes, you just say yes because you’re passionate about what you're doing, and you want to take on more of it. But, even then, it still gets overwhelming and stressful to get everything that needs to be done accomplished!
When you find yourself overcommitting, whether with friends, family, or at work, it’s always worth it to take a step back to revisit whether you’re saying yes for the right reasons. You won’t exactly be happy when you pressure yourself into countless commitments with limited time, energy, mental capacity, and resources.
A significant amount of stress always accompanies such situations, so you need to learn to create boundaries (even for yourself) to easen up that stress. Don't stretch yourself too thin nor agree to things half-heartedly, even if you love what you're doing. When you say yes, always factor in your mental health, energy, and time.
7. Earning Yourself the Respect You Deserve
As you stress yourself out about what'll happen if you say no, the truth of the matter is that what'll happen is that you'll earn yourself the respect you deserve.
When you're concise and upfront about your priorities, your vision for your life, and can set boundaries, you gain confidence in yourself and your decisions, and in return, others will give you the respect you deserve.
Everyone admires someone who instinctively knows when to say yes and when to say no. So, when you showcase your ability to do so and consistently draw the line between being friendly and being a people-pleaser, others will learn to respect your choices.
Contrary to popular belief, the result won’t be awkwardness, conflict, or hurting others’ feelings. Instead, you’ll come off as a dependable person who doesn’t take on more than they can handle, and they’ll respect how you value your time and life. After all, what’s the point of taking on more than you can handle and then not delivering?
When you say no when you can't commit to something, you're proving yourself to be a reliable person that shows up for what they committed to when they can and rejects the idea altogether if they can't handle it, and that's something worth praising.
Say No: You’ll Thank Yourself Later!
When everything’s said and done, the key is this: “When you say yes to others, make sure you’re not saying no to yourself.”- Paulo Coelho.
Most certainly, it's easier said than done to get used to saying no to the things you don't feel enthusiastic about doing, but once you start taking baby steps towards it, you'll thank yourself later. In contrast, failing to say no will only leave you with regret. That's above the usual stress accompanied by saying yes to everything and everyone, which isn't good for your health.
So, go ahead and say no to anything that doesn’t serve you or make you a better version of yourself because you only have one life to live! Make it worthwhile!