Saying yes when you want - or need- to say no is the shortest way to feeling resentful and burning yourself out.
So why do we do it, over and over again?
Saying no to friends, family members or co-workers can be sometimes awkward and make us feel like being selfish but if you say yes to everyone and everything just because you want to be nice and are afraid of hurting people’s feelings, you’ll end up completely over-loaded, with no time left for your own projects, your career and personal life. It is important to prioritize the work you have to do and the things you really want to do, and this means you must be able to say no sometimes. Actually, you must be able to say no most of the time in order to keep your sanity, your focus and your money too. As the late Steve Jobs said: “Focus is about saying no.” Period.
Here are some effective ways to say no without sounding like an inconsiderate self-centred and uncaring person:
When saying no, go straight to the point. You don’t need to make a million excuses, a clear and short explanation is better and will sound more genuine. For example, if your co-workers are planning to go out after work but you don’t really feel like it, a simple: “I’d love to go out for drinks but I had such a tiring week, I really need to go to bed early today. Maybe some other time.” will be enough. Do not over-explain.
If you don’t want to sound like you don’t care, when saying no, you can offer an alternative date or an alternative kind of help. For instance, say your friend asks you for help to write a presentation letter but you are really busy or tired, or quite frankly, not in the mood because you’d like to be able to spend some time with your family, you can always send some tips or maybe some sites or blogs where your friend might find the help he needs with his letter or offer to help him in some other way once you have more time.
Don’t let the other person waiting for your answer if you already know it will be no. If you can’t go out/ lend money/ help babysitting for whatever reason, do not postpone your answer hoping that the person will forget about it. Don’t say “I will look into this later” if you have no intention of doing so. You’d better give a straight answer so that the person knows where you stand and can look for help somewhere else.
Don’t send mixed messages, if you don’t want or can’t do something, be clear and firm about it. Don’t say “Maybe”, “Let’s see”… This, of course, doesn’t mean you should be rude or cruel. Be polite and do not forget to explain why your answer is no, but again, no need for over-explaining or worse, making up excuses, the less you say, the better. Just make sure the person understands that your no is really a no.
When having to decline some request or offer, be in charge of the situation so to avoid having to repeat your no several times, which can be quite exhausting and wears off even the best relationship, be it at work, with family or friends. It’s important to know exactly what you are willing to do and what you are not and then, set your boundaries and stand your ground. Being in charge of your life means you won’t be pushed into doing something you are not comfortable with.
Always start your no-answer with a positive note, for example “It was really so much fun going shopping with you last time but this weekend I can’t help you get a new dress because I’ve already planned spending the day with my sister” or “ Thank you for thinking of me, I’m really flattered that you’re asking me to be your partner but I don’t feel comfortable mixing business and friendship” or “I love the bag I bought from you and thank you for inviting me the see your new collection, but I’m saving for my next trip right now. I will definitely call you when I need a new one.”
Saying no gets easier with practice so, don't be afraid of using this powerful word, it will sure make you feel good about yourself.
Having said that, being open to life, opportunities and people is very important for your personal and professional growth and happiness, helping those who need you, when possible, is extremely rewarding and enriching so be sure you’re not saying no just because you don’t want to step out of your comfort zone or you might end up missing out on some wonderful experiences life has to offer you!