The Art of Saying No

Many a times we all have experiences that it’s difficult to say No, when somebody is asking us something. Let’s learn few bits from the famous time-management and productivity author Damon Zahariades about the art of saying no.

Protect Your Time

Your time and interests are valuable

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for people-pleasers to overcome is feeling responsible for others’ feelings. They fear that saying no will disappoint and anger requestors. This fear prompts them to regularly put others’ priorities ahead of their own.

People pleasers often prioritize others’ needs ahead of their own because they feel their time, interests, opinions, and goals are worthless. I know this from experience. It’s how I used to think. This is a self-image problem.

The importance of prioritizing your needs

It’s important that we attend to our own needs before attending to the needs of others. This assertion may make you feel uncomfortable, particularly if you strive to be loving and giving in all that you do.

But allowing your needs to remain unaddressed while you continuously cater to others is the path toward resentment and bitterness.

We want to avoid seeming selfish

We have a limited number of hours to play with each day. That means every time we say yes to someone, we’re saying no to someone or something else. And every time we say no, we free ourselves to spend that time and attention on another person or interest.

Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s necessary. The problem is, if you’re constantly saying yes to other people, putting their priorities ahead of your own, you won’t have the time or energy to care for yourself. And you’ll slowly become irritated, cynical, and miserable.

Assertiveness Versus Aggressiveness

Aggressiveness is often an impulse. An aggressive person responds in a hostile or inconsiderate manner and often regrets doing so later.
By contrast, assertiveness is planned, thoughtful, and considerate. An assertive person communicates his or her position with clarity while taking the other person’s feelings into account.

The aggressive individual is loud, opinionated, and self-absorbed. The assertive individual understands how to express his or her point of view with grace.

The Phycology of Assertiveness

Being assertive means having the self-confidence to express your needs and wants, and pursue your own ends, even in the face of opposition. It involves telling people where you stand on a given topic and leaving no room for confusion.

Assertiveness is declaring your point of view and not feeling as if you need others’ approval or validation.

The Power of No

“No” is a little word that carries tremendous power. This is one reason many people hate to say – or are afraid to say – no. When they do summon the courage to turn someone down, they often offer apologies and excuses. They practically beg forgiveness.

“It’s unsurprising that we often say yes when we know we should say no. It’s an instinctive response born of our longing for other people’s approval.”

Most children learn to be nice to others as the basis of their value systems. They want others to see them as helpful and caring; they demonstrate goodness by being nice. Saying yes becomes an important quality in this approach to life. When these kids become adults, many of them become virtual yes machines – saying yes to everyone about everything.

“The best way to help people over the long run is to ensure your needs are met first.”

Some individuals become inveterate people pleasers. You’re a people pleaser if you’re afraid to speak up, feel you must always put on a happy face, act chipper when you’re down, avoid conflict, see yourself as selfish when you do anything for yourself, have weak “personal boundaries” and believe that only other people’s happiness matters. People pleasers can’t take rejection; the idea of saying no fills them with dread.

Why you can’t say No

  • To “avoid offending people”: Often people give in to avoid upsetting someone. Don’t fear to say no, but always say it with respect toward the other person. When you treat a person who is asking you for favor with respect, you’ve done everything you can or should do. This knowledge can liberate you from feeling guilty.
  • To “avoid disappointing people”: When you feel you’ve let someone down by saying no, remorse can soon follow. Remember that feeling remorseful for standing up for yourself isn’t appropriate. It’s not your job to protect others from disappointment when you decline their requests.
  • To build up “low self-esteem”: People who lack self-esteem often mistakenly believe their time has less value than that of other people. When you say no, your self-esteem can actually increase.
  • To get “others to like us”: You think that when you say no to others, they’ll like you less. In fact, they’ll like you more and will respect you more, too.
  • To “help others”: People like to feel good about themselves. One of the best ways is to assist others, but that’s short-sighted. Your time, money and attention are limited. Be selective in how you give away your assets.
  • To “appear valuable”: Everyone wants to feel appreciated. But don’t succumb to the rush of helping others to the point that you undermine your own needs. You are valuable to others when you help them, but don’t put your life on hold to assist others.
  • To avoid “missing out on opportunities”: Do you fear saying no to important people, like your boss? Do you worry that if you don’t do what the boss wants, he or she won’t think of you when other opportunities appear? Are you in danger of wasting your time doing something inconsequential for your manager to get a future chance to do something consequential for yourself? Instead, do consequential things to get on the path to being offered even more consequential things.
  • To avoid “emotional bullying”: Bullies won’t let up until you agree to do what they want. Their heavy-handed tactics – yelling, threatening, swearing – are all forms of manipulation. See them for what they are and say no firmly and clearly to short-circuit a bully’s power.
  • To “avoid seeming selfish”: Often, people adopt a constant yes attitude because they don’t want others to think of them as selfish. If you consistently place the needs of others ahead of your own, your life will suffer.
  • To prevent “conflict”: Sometimes conflict is impossible to avoid and harmony seems impossible to achieve. Be brave enough to embrace conflict to protect yourself. When you say yes to duck a confrontation, you only confirm the notion that your feelings matter least.

Strategies for saying No

  • “Be direct”: When people ask you for favors that you don’t want to do, come right out and say no without excuses or equivocation. Be straightforward and honest.
  • “Don’t stall for time”: Stalling merely strings out the requester and makes you seem indecisive. Stalling is disrespectful. Saying no right away is more respectful than delaying.
  • “Replace ‘no’ with another word”: You can communicate the idea of no without using the actual word. Soften the blow with different phrasing, for example, “I’d like to help you, but I’m swamped with this project right now.”
  • “Take ownership of your decision”: When someone asks you to do something and you say “I can’t,” almost always, truth be told, you could. Saying “I can’t” is a cop-out. Take charge of your life and your decisions. If you prefer, when you say no, you can add a reason – a true one.
  • “Be courteous”: Never be rude to a requester, even a rude one. Incivility on your part can come back to bite you later. You can be both courteous and assertive.
  • “Ask the requester to follow up later”: It’s not a stall when you ask the person making the request to check back when you’ve had time to consider it. This is a perfectly reasonable response and places the pressure where it should be – on the requester.
  • “Avoid lying about your availability”: Are you in charge of your life, or is the requester in charge of your life? You call the shots in your life. At least, you should. This means you don’t have to lie if you don’t want to do something. And you don’t have to feel responsible for other people’s negative reactions. Their reactions characterize them and have nothing to do with you.
  • “Offer an alternative strategy”: If possible, never leave a requester hanging. If you can’t or won’t do what he or she wants, suggest a different option – perhaps by recommending someone else.
  • “Describe your lack of bandwidth”: A great way to say no is to detail the activities in your busy schedule to demonstrate that you really don’t have time to help out.
  • “Resist the urge to offer excuses”: Invented excuses seldom fool anyone – for example, “I can’t help you move tomorrow because I threw out my back.” Making up excuses diminishes you and fuels your fear of conflict. Instead, simply say no. Honesty is the best policy.
  • “Be resolute”: Pushy requesters hate to take no for an answer, but don’t waver under their pressure. If you do, an aggressive requester will bore in and won’t give you peace until you relent. Give the situation back to the requester by saying, for example, “Sharon, I know you dislike hearing no and are inclined to persist. But I’m not going to change my mind.”
  • “Say no by category”: You may have additional expertise outside of your immediate job description. Create a blanket rule – and make sure everyone knows about it – that you can’t help anyone in that extra area. That way you don’t have to turn down any specific personal requests.

Lifestyle management expert Damon Zahariades has written several time-management and productivity books. Above is summary of one of his book with the same title.

From the book:-
The Art of Saying No by Damon Zahariades

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