Learning to say "no"

Generosity is a virtue, and the need to please is a deep-rooted human characteristic that begins in childhood, but people-pleasing in excess can lead to personal unhappiness.


“Can you do dinner on Tuesday an hour from your house?”
“May I cut in line for the restroom because I need to use the restroom?”
“May I have some of those grapes?”
“Do you want to start bikram yoga with me four nights a week?”


Whether out of guilt or an unrealistic sense that we can “do it all,” many of us say yes to everything, even if we have no interest or time, yet setting boundaries is a highly important skill to master for both personal and professional growth. 

1.       You have to be a little selfish. Saying “no” is difficult, but saying “yes” might add stress to your life and eat into your leisure time. Stress literally shortens your life. It is okay to be selfish when you’re protecting your physical and mental health.

2.       Be honest and straightforward. In a sympathetic, but firm tone, say “I’m sorry but I can’t do this right now” or “I’m sorry but I’m unavailable.” Most people will accept your answer. If pressed for a reason why, do not buckle. Simply say, “I’m afraid I simply don’t have the time right now.”

3.       Implement a 24-hour pause period. If you are uncomfortable being firm, take your time to decide. Say “Let me get back to you on that” and give yourself 24 hours to check your schedule, weigh the pros and cons, and do some soul-searching. Do I really have the time? Am I interested in this? Then respond appropriately.

Learning to say “no” simplifies your commitments and allows you to focus on your passions and interests. Go out there and take charge of your life! Remember, as Gavin de Becker says, “‘no’ is a complete sentence.” And it frees up your schedule for “yes” space.


Written by Catherine Clubb-Brown, intern

Photo courtesy of usatoday.com 


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