Let’s be honest. How often do we find ourselves agreeing to take on extra work, attend events or participate in activities we don’t particularly enjoy. Simply because we did not feel comfortable saying "no".The act of saying "no" is powerful. Saying "no" is one of the first tools children use to assert personal autonomy. But, as adult women, it's a word we too often feel guilty using.
It's time to stop feeling guilty, channel our inner 2-year-old and start saying it more often. In fact, it needs to be the first tools we reach for in our emotional self-care kit.
Because the key to enjoying a happier, less stressful life is not really about income, physical appearance or what we do for a living. It’s about choosing what we do with 6 little hours - and saying "no" to protect those choices.
Saying “yes” to giving away chunks of our limited time is a great way to make everyone else happy. But, being able to comfortably say “no” gives us the time and energy to do the things that make ourselves happy. There may be 24 hours in a day, but truthfully, we only have a handful of those hours we can truly call “our own”.
The average working adult spends 17.32 hours engaged in sleep, work, personal care functions, traveling from point a to point b and caring for others.
What we consistently chose to do with those six (or less) remaining hours can make the difference between a happy life and...well, a not so happy life.
Saying "no" reduces stress
Our routine might not be exciting to others - but it's the oil that keeps our mental and emotional gears running smoothly. Having a routine means that we have prioritized and carved out space in our lives for the things that are important to us.
Maybe your routine includes a 30-minute daily walk. You might find that the best, or perhaps only, time for your daily walk is in the morning before work, or on a lunch break, or after dinner in the evening. But, whatever time you select, it's an enjoyable part of your daily routine.
While it might seem unimportant to others, that seemingly minor activity is one of the little "happy spots" in your day. When you say "no" to requests that interfere with that routine, you are really saying "yes" to keeping your life satisfying and balanced.
Obviously, there are times when it might be important to alter plans, but frequently disrupting your daily routine leads to an increase in anxiety and elevates stress levels.
We don't need a "good reason" to say "no"!
Too often we worry that saying “no” will make us appear uncaring or - horrors - rude.
We mentally scramble to find a "good reason" for turning down a request. But, here's the truth - It’s perfectly okay to NOT want to do something for the simple reason that WE JUST DON'T WANT TO.
We don’t need a socially acceptable excuse or even a valid reason to say "no". In fact “I don’t want to” IS a valid reason.
Saying "no" will not make us unlikeable
Most adults are able to accept a simple “No, I can’t walk your dog, watch your kids, take on your extra workload, attend your event” at face value and without hard feelings. These are people who truly value you for who you are as a person - not just for what you are willing to do for them.
But, there are times when even people close to us will be unhappy with our decision to say "no". They might even have a negative thought or two about our response - I mean, no one likes being told “no” right?
A great quote has been attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt: “What other people think of me is none of my business”. Sometimes we simply have to channel our inner First Lady and adopt that line of thinking.
"No" is not a negotiation!
A polite, friendly and firm “I’m sorry, but I can’t” is clear, honest and direct. Saying "no" without adding a qualifying statement is the end of the discussion...not the opening line in a negotiation.
Very few adults actually respond to being turned down with “but why not?”. But it’s still tempting to offer a pre-emptive explanation: “Oh, I’m so sorry but I really can’t because….” This is a mistake because it doesn't make your message clear. The message you intend is simply "no". When you offer an explanation the message becomes "maybe".
Be like Nike - Just do it!
Sometimes we do the “I’ll think about it and get back to you” dance.
We know we are going to eventually say "no" but hope that the request will go away before we have to actually refuse it. Sometimes that works, and many, many times it does not.
Unless you truly DO need time to evaluate whether or not you can - or even want to - honor a request, don’t delay refusing it. That just prolongs the amount of time you spend worrying about it and wastes the other person's time.
The best gift you can give yourself - is time for yourself!
The next time you are asked to spend time or energy doing something you don’t want to do - take a deep breath before you reflexively agree.
It might be time to employ the power of “no.” Chances are, you will thank yourself later.