While I’ve never considered myself to be a “yes” man, saying “no” doesn’t come easy either. I’ve flat out struggled with it all my life, particularly when it comes to my close relationships. Over the past few years, however, I’ve realized that saying “no” is a fantastic skill to maintain my sanity.
Of course, the results weren’t great initially — people got mad at me, and I even lost a few good friends because they thought I was way over my head. Sure, I could’ve been more reasonable, but I didn’t know any better. I think by now everyone’s gotten used to it possibly because I’ve gotten better with it over time. (And thank god for that!)
Nonetheless, if you struggle with saying “no” effectively, the following guideline (that I stole from one of Ed Batista’s magnificent post) might help. I would’ve been gone mad if it weren’t for the words of wisdom below:
- Slow down. Feelings of anxiety generated by the possibility of saying “no” can escalate into a full-blown threat response, an emotional state in which we have diminished capacity to process information and consider options. Slowing down the pace of an interaction or a decision-making process can allow us to catch up and make the choice that’s right for us, not merely the option that alleviates our anxiety at the moment.
- Recognize our emotional cues. We experience many emotions before we recognize them in conscious awareness, but feelings often have physiological markers that can help us identify and name the emotion sooner. Once we’re aware of an emotion, we can take action to influence how we respond. What do we feel — physically — when we consider saying “no”?
- Practice. Saying “no” is like any other interpersonal skill—it feels clumsy and awkward at first, and we improve only with repeated effort.
HT: Ed Batista
Like Ed says, saying “no” is a skill and the only way to get better at it is to practice it more often. It’ll be awkward and uncomfortable at first, but after some time you will get over it, and the others will get used to it.