Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Art of Saying "No"

When is the last time you did something because you felt 'bad' for someone/about something?  Guilty?  Obligated?  Until recently, I had a lot on my plate, and my plate kept getting fuller (well I didn't plan on that pun, but yes, my plate got literally and figuratively fuller).  For someone as stubborn and set in their ways as I am, I was having a hard time saying "no".  To say my refusal skills needed some work would be an understatement.

The truth is, when you agree to do something out of guilt or fear of hurting someone, no one wins.  Sure, it might seem like you're pacifying someone and joy can come from that.  But ultimately, you're hurting yourself with unnecessary stress and by doing something half-assed (excuse my French) because you're not really into it, you're hurting the other party(ies) involved because they aren't receiving you 100%.  While everyone may receive some immediate gratification, you're deceiving yourself and everyone else, and in the long run, that just isn't fair.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

I use these stupid cliches all the time -- but they exist for a reason! Someone can push and push and push you, but you can't let yourself give in if you don't want.  Whatever it is someone is trying to convince you of doing, it can't be forced.  You have to stand your ground.  The instant gratification and the feeling that you have appeased someone is usually not worth the regret, guilt, and maybe even confusion later on.  So for the sake of all parties involved, learn to say no.  Willpower is a muscle and it, too, is subject to fatigue.  It needs to be exercised every now & then in order to stay in tiptop shape.

Some tips for strengthening your refusal skills (and how to avoid being the pushy one!):

  • Don't respond to a request immediately.  Take some time to process what is being asked of you before you give an answer.  
  • Make decisions with a clear head.  Don't make decisions when you're mad, sad, or not 100% sure of what you want to do.  ESPECIALLY avoid committing to something or getting involved in a tricky situation when any alcohol has been consumed!  
  • Don't be afraid to back out.  If you do find yourself in a situation you wish you weren't, don't feel like your life depends on it (unless, of course, someone's life is actually on the line).  Your decision doesn't have to be permanent.  (Disclaimer:  Don't start being the person that no one can count on because you're constantly backing out.  No one likes to be described as "wishy-washy." Try working more on the first & second tips before you get to this point).
  • Don't feel guilty!  When your wellbeing is at stake, don't let anyone try to convince you of something.  You are your own best advocate and you know what your limits are.  Sure, someone is going to be upset when you deny them and it isn't going to be easy.  But in the end, it'll be worth it.
  • Know why you are refusing.  Try to get to the root of your response.  You will be stronger in your decision if you know why the red flag was raised:  "I will regret going out tonight when I have a headache tomorrow and need to be productive" instead of simply "I don't want to."
  • Be respectful.  If someone doesn't respond or react in the way you want, respect their decision.  Sure, sometimes people (including me at any given time) need a little prodding if you feel that they can be swayed and they will be pleased with the outcome.  However, if "no" seems to be a common response or theme, let it go.  You're not going to force them & you're only putting more stress on them.  If they change their mind, they will come to you.
  • Don't take it personally.  The reason why someone refuses you is rarely simply because they just don't like you.  Try to be understanding to the fact that their reasoning is more complex.  Approach people and their responses with the notion that everyone is waging some sort of inner battle.  

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