The Lost Art of Saying No

Shell Beach SunsetI have a hard time saying no.

I’m a sucker for a sob story — especially from those closest to me.

Even with a small inner circle, I get a lot of requests through my blog, books, teaching and public speaking.

I’m flattered, but each request creates a sense of obligation – pressure to do something I do not always want to do.

A personal assistant insulates me from the phone and email and I’ve adopted policies to minimize the abusive requests.

Here is an example:

When students request an letter of recommendation for employment , I’ve learned to flip the responsibility back on them.

Once I began asking them to first write an outline or a rough draft, I have yet to receive a single one. Millennials – “Generation Me” – but that’s a topic for another day.

When I realized how many expect someone else to work for their success, I stopped feeling guilty.

Why should I invest time in someone who refuses to invest it in themselves?

I can’t always hide behind a firewall of assistants or processes, especially from loved ones who know which emotional triggers to pull to get compliance.

Sometimes you just have to say no, because there are consequences to saying yes.

If you give too much, eventually you will be useful to no one – especially yourself.

Yes” can leave you in a state of constant crisis, empowering others to decide when you’ll be happy or sad, stressed or relaxed, anxious or at peace.

A request often leaves you feeling obligated to respond, so without considering the consequence, we often jump into the first feeling that comes to mind. That first thing is usually the path of least resistance – compliance.

Yes” slips out easier than “No.”  

We are reacting without thinking—without honest thought about our own needs.

We are being manipulated by our fear of rejection, our desire for approval and our need to be accepted.

We are allowing others to dictate how we live.

We lose control.

Sometimes saying no takes a lot of courage, so you have to start out small.

Developing the strength to say no is a lot like building muscle. You have to slowly rehabilitate your brain into undoing the social brainwashing.

Practice saying no to the small things.

  • Don’t answer the phone
  • Don’t answer the door
  • Skip the obligatory lunch with coworkers
  • Don’t buy the fund raiser cookies
  • Say no the invitation

Practice on the little things and work up to the big ones.

The important thing is to stop saying yes when the real answer is no.

Stop lying with excuses.

Just say no.

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