How And When To Say No. It's Something You Can Practice

Aug 06, 2022

How and when to say No. It's something you can practice

(Photo by RODNAE Productions)

Think about a time where you were sitting at work planning what you'll do later. You're exhausted and you wanna just watch TV and veg out. Or maybe you had planned to go grocery shopping for dinner, or spend some time working on your hobbies. Then one of your friends or family members asks if you want to go do something later. You don't really want to, but you end up saying yes. Why?

Because you think they’ll be mad or they won’t like you anymore? Because you don’t like conflict? Because of FOMO? The first is unlikely and the second and third are things you can overcome. So how can you get past these to get better at saying no?

The power of no

When you say no to others so you can do something for yourself, you're telling yourself that you matter. You're saying, to yourself or out loud, that what you want to do is important. That your time is special and you can spend it doing what you want to do.

It also tells others that you value yourself and your time. That you make yourself a priority and that's ok. They will understand that you will be able to be a better friend to them once you've taken care of yourself. 

They might even be more likely to make time for themselves and take care of their own mental health. By showing that it's okay to say no and to take time for yourself, they may start to do the same. And we could all use a little more self care. And when you share why you're saying no, they can understand more about you.

So when should you say it?

Whatever the task or event, if you haven't had the time you want for yourself, you are going to have to tell someone no. You either say it to others, or you say it to yourself. So if you need a mental health day or some time for self care, say that. If you aren't up for one aspect of the activity, tell them, and maybe there's a work-around.

The most important thing is to tell the truth, this is an important part of any relationship. That goes double for your relationship with yourself. Tell the truth about how you feel, what you want, and what makes you happy. If you don't feel like going out today, don't force yourself to do it. Ask yourself "What do I want to do?" and then ask, "Is that really the whole truth?"

What's the best way to say it?

The best way to say no is to say it nicely and plainly, and give an alternative. Show how you care about yourself and the other person by being assertive and fair. Reaffirm that care by trying to be the one to bring up the alternative when the time comes. "Are we still on for this weekend?"

When you decline an offer, it can also be helpful to, at least sometimes, tell them why. If you say no every time with no explanation, some friends may think you don't want to hang out with them. But if you don't say no sometimes, you may end up resenting them and damaging the relationship. There's a lot of nuance here, so you can give as much information as you're comfortable sharing.

Let's look at an example:

You want to hang out with a friend, but they are hanging out with several people you don't know. And you're not in the mood to socialize with new people right now. Try saying something like, "I do want to hang out with you, but I'm not really in the mood to meet new people today. Could we set something up this weekend for just the two of us?" Then once you make plans, follow up to show that you cared to remember.

What to do when someone won't listen

Some people may not understand because they don't see the benefits of self care. This can be for any number of reasons, but they all can be handled in similar ways. One of the biggest barriers to being assertive here is how much you care for the other person. If you care deeply about someone and they don't seem to care about your self care, that can be difficult to deal with.

Workout your willpower

Higher levels of willpower and self-confidence can help you deal with negative responses. You will have the mental strength to either ignore or refute any arguments. 

You can "charge your batteries" with things like good sleep habits, regular exercise, and healthy eating. If you struggle with negative self-talk, working to change that will help as well. You may tell yourself that you want to take some "me time" and you may hear a voice saying you aren't worth it. It's wrong and you can tell it that it's wrong.

Set and enforce boundaries

Boundaries are set to let others know how they are allowed to treat you and your time. You communicate your boundaries using your words but also with body language. Is someone taking advantage of you or not respecting you? You are going to have to let them know that things need to change and how they should change. Then you're going to have to reinforce those boundaries when they come into question.

Try to pay attention to how you react to situations, this may help you to know where your boundaries are. Any time someone makes you automatically react with anger, frustration, sadness, or any strong negative emotion. This is an opportunity to explore how you can set up a boundary going forward. When you address your boundaries being crossed, try using "I feel" statements. This can help to keep others from immediately going on the defensive. This can be things like saying, "It may have been unintentional, but I feel disrespected by what you just said." Instead of, "You just hurt my feelings and disrespected me." 

Walk away, when you can

There is no reasoning with some people. You might need to make harder decisions if someone continues to not respect your time. Every situation is different, some can be fixed and some are broken and past repair. Working with a professional is the best way to handle this. Talk with your therapist or counselor to see the steps that should be taken. 

You may need to do things like limit the topics you talk about with the person or limit your time with them in general. You may possibly even need to remove them from your life. This is all easier said than done, but a professional will be able to help you through it.

What to do after saying no

Whatever you want! Your time is your own, take control of it wherever you can. Now get out there and start saying yes to yourself.

Continue Your Journey