‘No’, such a simple word consisting of no more than two letters, yet to a people pleaser like myself it is one of the hardest responses to give. Maybe because the word itself is a complete statement and saying ‘no’ without the need for any explanations or excuses, makes this answer seem so bold.
Growing up in a brown household, being a people pleaser was a fundamental core lesson in life, especially if you were a girl. So much so, that if our family was invited over for dinner we (myself and Brown Girl N) were given a special mention because it was us that would end up cleaning up after not just ourselves but everyone else that was invited too. And the icing on the cake was that we were made to feel so proud of ‘helping others’. There have been many (too many to count) incidents like this where our mother could simply not say ‘no’ and as a result saying ‘no’ for us became an alien concept. This made life so much easier for everyone around us and the exact opposite for us.
So for us, this blog, the approach to loving yourself and putting yourself first is a journey of unlearning the past and mastering self-love. And we believe one of the best ways to loving yourself is to not compromise what you can and cannot do, by always saying ‘yes’. We have to learn to say ‘no’. Below are a list of pointers, techniques and steps to think through and consider before falling into the ‘yes’ pattern we can so easily be trapped by.
1. Be honest.
Are you able to? Do you want to? Will you have the time/energy/capability/etc? Try and think about yourself, your daily routine and what is required of you before taking on more than you can do.
2. Take your time.
This is an important point especially for myself as I always seem to say yes straight away and then later realise I have too much on already. This makes me feel worse as I feel I had brought their hopes up by saying yes first, so now I have not only added more work but also the stress of not letting the person down. This is a dangerous and vicious cycle
3. Provide a reasonable explanation
Continuing on from the first two points, being as open and honest as you can, if there are other plans or things that prioritise over what is being requested then let the person know. I’m sure once they can see that you have other commitments and plans they will understand that perhaps they asked too much of you and that you are not being unreasonable.
4. Don’t overcompensate the excuse
However (still continuing…) don’t feel the need that you have to make them understand, your excuse should partly be for them and partly for you. If there is another priority or you are simply not able to, provide your justification so that they are aware and you don’t feel too bad. Whether they believe you or not, or they don’t feel your reason is worthy enough, it is not your responsibility to make them see otherwise.
5. Be polite but assertive.
Personally this is a real tester for me. I feel like I reciprocate the apology so much so that the ‘no’ gets lost and it becomes more about not offending other person. ‘I’m sorry but…’ ends up becoming ‘I’m really really really sorry/if there was any other way/what else can I do/thank you so much I really like what you are giving (forcing on) me, etc’. Just stop. Honestly you don’t need to be rude, you should most of the time (not all) explain why you can’t but above all don’t provide a platform for you to be emotionally blackmailed. Below are a few sentence openers that can help you politely say no:
- I’m sorry but..
- I’m afraid I won’t be able to…
- Thank you but no thank you…
- Thank you for thinking of me but this is not for me/my style/something I will make use of…
- Unfortunately I have other plans…
- Sorry, but maybe another time?
6. Barter your help.
Sometimes we do not wish to say ‘no’ but our circumstances compel us to. If your help is needed but you have other priorities, let the person know that in order to help them you will require their assistance also. “I would help with you with ‘such and such’ if you could help me with ‘so and so'”. Who knows maybe the negotiation might end up benefitting you more than you thought?
7. Help to help.
If you yourself are unable to help, even partly so, and you still wish to do something then maybe you could direct the help where it can be provided. You might know some who could provide the help (and more importantly would love to help), saying ‘no’ does not have to mean you need to cut yourself off from the person or the help they are asking, you are simply cutting off from the responsibility of taking on the task because you are unable to do so.
8. Its about you but not about you.
This statement might sound confusing but really it isn’t. When someone is asking something of you, they are requesting your help whether it is time, effort, money or whatever else it is, and if the request is exuberant because you have always agreed beforehand than you are being taken advantage of. You are seen as help and nothing more, so if you say no you are refraining from providing that help, it is not taking anything away from who you are.
9. Be selfish.
If prioritising yourself, your needs, your wants, your energy means you need to be selfish. Then be so, and with pride. Helping others is such a gratifying characteristic, but what happens to you when you give too much of yourself away by helping others and as a result put yourself in second position? You end up being stuck there because everyone else is too busy looking after themselves. Being selfish is your right, because everyone should be looking after themselves, you need to refuel once in a while because nothing functions on being empty so why should you?
10. Just say ‘No!’
Going through the points above, once you have mastered techniques and if the pointers above are not necessary, you should by now have built up the courage to directly decline what you are unable to offer. If the question or request requires a simple ‘no’ than just say ‘no’, it might seem brash, bold, rude, unlike yourself but sometimes the response needs to be what is required not how you are seen.
I really hope you find these points helpful and would love to hear what works for you and the best way you say no.
Reflect. Love. Heal always xXx
Brown Girl R.