Some time ago, a friend asked me, “You have to come to our karaoke party this Saturday. I miss you.” I hate karaoke parties, and I knew that I would need time to relax. One voice in my head told me, “You are egoistic. You have to be there. Be nice!” The other one said, “I just don’t want to.” In the past, I would have gone to a party where I felt at the wrong place all the time, and I would have felt drained. Now I simply said, “No, I can’t.”
Do you fear to say “no”? Do you want to be nice to others? Do you fear conflicts?
If you struggle with saying “no,” don’t worry, you are not alone. Many times the difficulties exist due to learnings in our childhood. Were you allowed to say “no” as a child? How did your family use it? How did people react to it? As a child, I learned that “no” was a word that I wasn’t allowed to use, and that it might provoke a punishment. As an adult, I feared that the other person would either reject me or explode in a rage of anger, so I had major difficulties to say “no”. Was it good for me to say “yes” even though I should have said “no”? No, it wasn’t. I abandoned myself and lost the focus in my life because I tried to please other people. Furthermore, I made the activities with resentment like a recalcitrant horse because I didn’t enjoy them. Then, I learned to respect my needs and to say no.
The voices of fear and guilt are inappropriate advisors, and they shouldn’t be your motivation to decide what you are doing. There is a difference between doing things because you have to do them or because you want to do them. How often do you do things because you feel obliged to do them? How often do you please others? If you try to please others at the expense of yourself, you are not nice to you at all.
Healthy boundaries are a key for healthy relationships!
If you say “no” to what you don’t want, you respect your boundaries and priorities. You can’t control how the other person will react or how they will feel about it. You can just take care of your needs and priorities. If you start to respect your needs and your boundaries and say “no” when you want to, other people will get to know you in an honest and authentic way. Honesty is the key. Learning to say “no” is a healthy habit that will improve your relationships. Try out different occasions and find a way to say “no” that makes you feel comfortable!
How can you say “no”?
Here are four effective ways that helped me to learn it:
A simple “no” without any explanation is enough.
Say gently and firmly: “No, I can’t.” That’s it. There is no need to be aggressive or angry. You have the right to say “no” and you do not owe the other person an explanation.
“I don’t know yet, I’ll think about it. I’ll let you know tomorrow, next week,… ”
This way helped me when I felt pressured and gave me the time to become aware what I wanted. Use this method with people you have difficulties with or if you do not yet know what you want. Then, tell them your answer. Nobody can oblige you to do something that you do not want to do.
If the other person insists, repeat it.
Especially, if they are not used to it, it is likely that other persons insist on what they want, or they simply ignore your answer. In this case, repeat your answer firmly. Don’t capitulate. You don’t have to explain it, just repeat it.
“No, I can’t but what do you think about… “
Say no, and make a counter proposal that fits with your need. Your friend wants to meet you this weekend and you can’t? Make a proposal for a day when it is convenient for you or propose another activity you prefer. Don’t give in but start to negotiate a solution that fits you both.
The more you practice, the more comfortable you will feel. Start with an option that feels right for you and play with it. See it as an adventure on your journey. Saying “no” and respecting your boundaries will increase your self-esteem and self-confidence. You will experience a higher degree of contentment because you allow yourself to do what you really want. Live your life in an assertive way, respecting your needs and the needs of others.
Would you like to give it a try?
I love to read your comments below!
Do you want to read more? Check the post Do you know your rights in a relationship?