Learning to Say No

A few months ago, while road-tripping in Pennsylvania, we discovered a radio station called JACK FM. They played a mix of music from the 80s and 90s, which is always a great choice for a road-trip; but what stood out most about JACK FM was their tagline – Playing what we want. No Requests. As I was thinking about our Happiness Project this past weekend, it struck me – we need to be more like JACK FM.

I spent the majority of the recent 3-day weekend filling requests from other people. Some I didn’t mind – like the last minute invitation to brunch with my mom. Others stressed me out – like having to drive back home on Friday evening to email a document to a co-worker when I was already half way to mom’s with a hot dish of homemade macaroni and cheese. And still others, made me downright upset – like the text message asking me for $20. Followed by another text with just a single question mark when I didn’t answer right away.

I am not a taxi. I am not FedEx. I am not a bank, a daycare, a convenience store, a pharmacy, a doctor, a veterinarian, or Google, for that matter. Yet, at times, I play all those roles. It’s kind of exhausting. And there’s no one to blame but myself. My insufferable inability to say one of the shortest words in any language – no – is what puts me in this situation in the first place.

No is a word I really need to learn to say this year…but to do that I need to think about why I, and perhaps some of you too, say yes to things we don’t want to do in the first place. Often we say yes for one of the following reasons:

  1. Fear of disappointing others
  2. To avoid conflict
  3. Fear of missing out
  4. False belief that other people’s needs or wants are more important than our own

About the only one on the list that doesn’t apply to me is #3. I constantly feel that saying no will disappoint someone, make them mad, or make me seem selfish. But is it really selfish to want to take care of yourself first before you take care of others?

I had a discussion with my mom recently about how we sometimes think our own goals and desires are insignificant because they don’t “scream” as loudly as those of other people. My mom has a goal of decluttering the attic while the weather is still cool. She thinks her goal is too simple to talk about, that no one will care, so instead she spends our time together talking about the wants and needs of other people. Or worse, she spends the time she could be decluttering talking to those other people about their wants and needs. Sadly, I often do the same thing. I give my most valuable asset – time – and sometimes even my money to prevent others from being disappointed and unhappy. How ironic is it that all I’m really doing is making myself disappointed and unhappy??

So how do we learn to say no when we’ve spent so many years saying yes? Here are some helpful tips (that I’m going to try) for saying no without feeling guilty:

  • Value yourself in the same way you value others. Remember your time, your thoughts, your goals, and your dreams are just as important as theirs.
  • Realize that guilt is an inappropriate response to the situation. If you hurt someone, you should feel guilty. Saying no causes the other person to have to rethink their request and perhaps be more resourceful but it doesn’t hurt them.
  • Be direct and don’t try to justify or explain the no. You don’t need a reason to choose not to do something.
  • Don’t avoid making a decision when you really want to say no. Saying that you’ll think about something only prolongs the stress that you are already feeling.
  • Be polite when turning down an invitation you may want to accept on another occasion (ie. dinner with friends, drinks, etc.). Simply say, “No thank you” or “Thanks but not this time.”
  • Know when you are being pressured or manipulated and remove yourself from the situation. You don’t owe that person your time and it’s not rude to say “No thank you” and close the door or hang up the phone on someone trying to sell you something you don’t want.

Learning to say no is a priority in our Happiness Project because sometimes you have to say no to other people in order to say yes to yourself. 

Do you have problems saying no? What are some of the ways you say yes to yourself?

Weekly Progress to Goals Report (week ending 1/14)

    • No Spend Days = 5
      YTD = 10/200
    • Meatless Days = 4.5
      YTD = 7.5/144
    • Miles Walked/Hiked = 12.4/0
      YTD = 28.4/1,000 and 0/100
    • Decluttered Items = 1
      YTD = 111/2017
    • Side Hustle Income = $12.71
      YTD = $38.01/$1,825

2 thoughts on “Learning to Say No

  1. I struggle with this! All four of the reasons you listed apply to me. I recently had an experience that is forcing me to say NO. While unpleasant the silver lining is that I’m hoping that lesson and a few others stick.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂


    1. You’re most welcome! I’ve been working on my “no” this week but I’m averaging only a 50% success rate. On the upside though, I think saying no to the person who asked me for money finally stuck. They haven’t asked since. Best of luck on your journey toward learning to say no. I think practice is the key for both of us 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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