The subtle art of saying no

Have you ever been asked to do something that you really don’t want to? And you spent hours, if not days, trying to conjure up an excuse as to why you can’t do it? And not just any excuse, but a plausible excuse. Family events, a friend’s birthday, a reunion, a prior commitment at a prior venue that you simply could not skip on. Alternatively, we begrudgingly say yes and complain that we have to participate in this random thing that we’ve been asked to do, so that we don’t offend the person asking us.

We’ve all been there. Making up excuses, searching for excuses, before finally giving. But to be quite frank, I’m pretty sick of doing things that I don’t want to do. What better excuse of not doing something than simply, ‘I don’t want to.’

Image result for i'm busy gif

I think from a young age, we are programmed to please people. Especially as a woman, we’re expected to be obedient, to play along, and do whatever it is to please the people around us. It means sacrificing our time, energy and effort to keep the peace and keep everyone happy. Whilst this isn’t the end of the world, and saying yes can be a great thing, there’s something terrifyingly empowering about saying no.

Image result for no thank you gif

This is not only apparent in our personal lives, but also in our professional ones. As a young professional, I have been brought up in an environment where I feel the need to prove myself. That I couldn’t possibly have earned my position because I’m too young. So I find myself holding incredibly high expectations of myself, pushing myself and putting my hand up for everything to prove how deserving I am of having the opportunity to have this job. This is a pretty self-destructive notion that will quickly lead to burnout and feeling unrecognised for the extra work you’re pushing yourself to do.

I used to think that saying no was saying no to new opportunities, to miss out on growing, to limit yourself and ultimately hold yourself back. And whilst sometimes saying yes to things that make you feel uncomfortable is freakin awesome and does facilitate growth, saying no doesn’t mean you miss out on that opportunity.

I’ve recently come to understand that time is one of the most precious things we have. And it’s important to protect it at all costs. As our lives get busier and busier, our weekends get booked out months in advance and seeing friends becomes a series of cancellations and rescheduling, the last thing you want to be doing is spending your precious time doing things that you don’t really want to do.

I’ve found myself asking, how the heck do I say no? To a friend, a family member, a colleague, a boss, a partner… so here are some little phrases and sayings.

  • That’s not really my scene
  • Thanks but there’s other things I’d rather be doing
  • That’s not really up my alley
  • I’m going to have a ‘me day’ instead
  • Can you elaborate on why you need me to do it specifically?
  • Can I think about it and get back to you?
  • I can’t commit to this at the moment

At the end of the day, saying no is an empowering thing. Saying no can set new boundaries. It can challenge people and get them to seriously think about what they’re asking you. It is self-care by honouring and respecting your time. And at the end of the day, you’re just one person. You can’t possibly do everything for everyone, and if you can, then maybe it’s time to start putting yourself first. Say yes to saying no!

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