How To Say No When It’s Hard To – 3 Important Thoughts To Consider
September 6, 2022
I was on my way to ballet the other day when I just started to cry. I felt so sick of being taken advantage of. I felt like I was always being used and forced into things I didn’t want to do. Domi is always asking me, “Baby, did you really want to do this, or did you just feel pressure to say yes?” And in thinking about that, I was sad that my answer is often, I just felt pressure to say yes. I had this sad little pity party for one for about twenty minutes, and then, seemingly out of the blue this thought popped into my head. I’m not sure if it was the Universe or my higher self or what was speaking to me, but it said, “Chelsea you are being complicit in those taking advantage of you when you say yes when you really mean no.”
My next thought was then, F*&% you, higher self, I am doing fine here blaming everyone else. But then I allowed myself to really sit with the uncomfortable thought that people taking advantage of my generosity or kindness has a lot more to do with the boundaries I set and me than it has to do with anyone else.
So, I’ve decided that I need to get better at saying no to things and setting some boundaries, but we all know, especially if you’re a people pleaser, that saying no can sometimes feel crushingly challenging. And because it was feeling so hard for me I thought maybe if we had a method or a way to think about saying yes or no it might feel a little bit easier…baby steps, right?
Given all of those thoughts swirling around in my head–this is what I came up with:
First, buy yourself some time.
If you’re used to saying yes automatically without thinking about it, remember that you can say you need some time to think about it. Yes, that’s easier said than done, so if that’s feeling like a challenge here’s some exact phrasing you can use:
“You know, I always say yes before I check my calendar, which has made things messy before. Let me check my planner before I say yes to this!”
“Before I say yes to this, I want to check with my partner and their schedule.”
“Before I give you a definitive yes, I want to check with my roommate.”
“Let me double check and make sure I have the bandwidth for this right now, I’ll get back to you!”
It doesn’t make you a stick in the mud to take care of yourself or to just say you need time to think about it–there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I even bet that those who don’t feel the pressure to please others may think it is silly that we contemplate so hard about saying we need to think about it or check with someone, but as someone that’s struggled with pleasing people forever and a day, I get it. This feels difficult, so if you need permission from someone to take the bull by the horns and say you need a minute to think about it–here is your permission slip.
Ask yourself why you are saying yes or no.
Once you’ve set the boundary that you need time to think about it really sit with the question of, “Why am I saying yes or no to this?”
So often we say yes as a reflex because we want to be liked, seem agreeable, or because we’re afraid of the repercussions of saying no. It’s important to understand why we are responding the way we are. And to figure that out we can talk it out with a friend, journal, sit with it, anything really that works for you!
If these thoughts come to mind as the reason you’re saying “yes” to something, maybe take a second look as to whether you really want to say yes:
“I just don’t want to disappoint them.”
“I really want them to like me.”
“I’m afraid they’ll be mad at me.”
“I feel like I should.”
“Saying no would be rude because they’ve done so much for me.”
All of your feelings are valid and if you’ve sat with these reasons and still want to say yes, then go for it, but it’s really good to know why we’re saying yes to something so that we don’t end up resenting the people involved later when we realized we wanted to say no.
On the flip side, if you’re saying no because:
You feel afraid.
You feel like someone will judge you.
You aren’t sure what other people will think.
It’s really important to think about that too. Some fear is really good, it keeps us from hurting ourselves or someone else, but sometimes fear also makes our lives smaller and it’s important to tap into why we’re doing things the way we are so that we can get clear act not just out of fear but out of what we truly desire to do.
So, you’ve decided to say “no.”
So, you’ve sat and thought about all of these different aspects of saying yes or no, and you want to say yes, that’s awesome! Go for it! Or maybe you’ve decided to say no. Deciding to say no is a huge step if that’s what you want, but still, the actual saying of the word spelled N-O can feel really earth-shattering, so again, here are some phrases to use until you find the way that works best for you. These are my starter pack of no’s so to speak:
“I’m not available then.” (This is true even if the plans are an afternoon of self-care and watching tv by yourself.)
“That’s just not something I’m really into, but thank you for the invitation!”
“I can’t make it this time, but please let me know if you’re doing this again soon!”
“That time doesn’t work for me, but I’m really honored/grateful to have been thought of/included/invited.”
Deciding to say yes or no when you’re someone who often wants to say yes to everything or feels pressure to say yes to everything can feel really overwhelming. But remember the people that will be the most upset about you saying no will be the ones that often benefited from you not having any boundaries with them. Also, remember that saying no once doesn’t mean you need to say no every time. There are many times when I say yes and I’m so glad I did, I just want us to get out of the habit of saying yes when we really want to say no because we’re worried about what someone will think, how we’ll be perceived, or if we’ll hurt someone’s feelings. You are worth taking care of and your feelings, whatever they may be, are valid.
I love you, I’m thinking about you and I know you’ve got this! XOXO, CAMDW