I’m sure we all know the pain and self-loathing that happens after we agree to do something we don’t want to do. We’ve all done it. Maybe you were in a good mood when you agreed to go out to the club with your friends but when the day comes you’d rather die. You roll your eyes and tell yourself “this time I’ll go but next time I’m going to tell them I’m not going.” HA! Or, how about the guilt that impedes when we do say no but we flat out lie about why we can’t do the thing. I did this all the time. Instead of just telling the person “no,” I’d make up some inflated story or explanation that I would have to commit to memory to avoid being caught in my lie. How exhausting. As I write this, I’m remembering a time when I said no to someone who was trying to make plans with me and followed up with an excuse (i.e. a lie) that I cannot for the life of me even remember at this very moment. I’m now hoping that situation is never brought up in a conversation because lies are hard to remember.
Hearing no is just as hard, if not more so, than saying it. When people tell you “no,” it often feels like a slap in the face, which is why we feel so uncomfortable doing this to others, especially those we care about. We just don’t want to burst their bubble or hurt their feelings. The thing is, though, saying no is the gateway to freedom. Read on.
Obviously, you cannot just say no to life’s obligations, such as work, school, kids and other things that contribute to your basic needs to stay alive and to live well every day. You can say no however, to things that take up time that you would rather spend differently. If your coworkers have asked you to join them at happy hour for the umpteenth time but you would rather go home and work on your passion (or even just chill and practice some self care), you can and you should say no. Saying no gives you the freedom to spend YOUR time the way YOU want to spend it. Not the other way around. Being a yes (wo)man means that you let other people dictate how part of or all of your day will be spent. That’s not cool, friend.
I know what you might be thinking now: Mel, I can’t ever in this lifetime or the next say no to my Mom! And to that I say, you bet you can (but tread carefully)! People have this weird thing where they think that telling someone they don’t want to do something that they aren’t comfortable with means that they are a bad person and that speaking up will result in ruined relationships. Listen, if your family/friends/partner/etc. cannot respect your decisions to not partake in certain events to the point where relationships are hurt, you should think about (and address) the boundaries you’ve continuously let your family/friends/partner/etc. cross for them to feel that way. Sorry, not sorry.
The key to saying no to a request or invitation is having complete control over your response. Don’t leave room for coercion. So, if you’re someone who doesn’t feel comfortable responding to things that you aren’t interested in with just a plain N-O, here are some things you might say instead, but mean the same thing as saying no (and aren’t audacious lies):
- When your coworker invites you to happy hour: “Happy hour sounds like fun, but I’ve got some things to take care of at home. Enjoy it, see you tomorrow!”
- When your friends want to go out and invite you (ugh): “I’m not up for going out to the club. To be honest, I would rather stay in, so that’s what I’m going to do.”
- When your mom really wants you to wear a blusher on your wedding day: “Thanks for your input, mom. Blushers just aren’t my style, so I’m going to pass on wearing one on my big day.”
- When someone wants to crash your alone time: “I’m honored that you’d like to hang out, but I’m in need of some quiet time, so I’m going to spend a nice evening alone.”
- When your coworkers try to force-feed you donuts and you’re trying look like a snack, not eat one: “I’m not going to have a donut, but it was so thoughtful of you to bring them in!”
Adapt and apply these, where applicable. Take notice that word “sorry” is nowhere to be found in the list above. Also, there is no over-explaining going up there. Acknowledge and appreciate the gesture/request, be direct in your response, and move on. DO NOT apologize for deciding to actually give a crap about your own wants/needs/feelings. DO NOT over-explain, as this often leads to inflation (i.e. lying). Take control, own your feelings, and articulate them so that people know and understand them.
Make bold and own this life!