We can all choose to say ‘no’, to things; a slice of cake, a cup of tea, date or job offer. We have the option to go or not go, accept or not accept. On the face of it anyway.
For some saying ‘no’, is their automatic default. They may be busy, stressed, overworked, overwhelmed and are desperate to avoid taking on any more, determined not to add to their burden. Or they may lack confidence and not want to be seen to be struggling or failing in another person’s eyes.
Then there are those who always say ‘yes’. They may not want to miss out, are always keen to be involved, to know what’s going on and have their hands on the reins. They don’t want to hurt, disappoint or let others down and like to see everyone pleased and happy.
The optimum level is probably somewhere in-between, where we say ‘yes’, enough times to stretch and challenge ourselves, try new things, make new contacts and get out of our comfort zones. But equally say ‘no’, often enough to make time and space to be able to think, breathe and do what feels right for us.
So, why do we say yes?
– Accepting invitations and offers stretches us mentally and introduces some stress into our lives. Some stress is good for us, making us think, problem solve, come up with new ideas and answers, work out the best way to go forward. It’s good to keep our minds alert and engaged by introducing new things, especially when there’s nothing out of the ordinary or challenging in our lives.
– Saying ‘yes’ can include meeting new contacts and extending our business or social circle. We may have to risk being the ‘new guy’, opening new doors and even scaring ourselves a little. Going somewhere unfamiliar, doing something different is especially important if life has become routine or we’re looking to make a fresh start.
– If requests and invitations regularly cause tension, fear and stress, but we still find ourselves automatically saying ‘yes’, it’s good to pause and reflect on what’s happening internally, emotionally. ‘I need to check my diary, and I’ll get back to you’, maybe a response that buys you a little time to reflect on the pros and cons of what a yes or a no will bring into your life and which is the best decision for you to make at this point in time.
– However, could you be one of those people who always have to say ‘yes’. You may dread appearing incompetent, out of your depth, struggling, so you never dare say ‘no’. But constantly saying ‘yes’ affects the quality of your work and your mental health as you become overworked and stressed. You do no one any favours by always saying ‘yes’ and taking on too much.
Why would we choose to say no?
– In a busy, stressful life saying ‘no’, can be your best friend, a lifesaver where you reclaim some time and peace for yourself. If you’re already stressed and overworked, you may feel vulnerable, guilty or bad at declining, but sometimes it has to be done.
– It may be that other people are unaware of how busy you are, don’t appreciate what you’re going through, what else is happening in your life. By saying ‘no’, it gives you the opportunity to introduce some boundaries and limits to your availability. Saying ‘no’ appropriately makes them stop and appreciate your contribution, one they’ve perhaps taken for granted till now.
– Just because you’ve free time doesn’t mean you have to be at other people’s disposal, no matter how obligated you may feel. Emergencies aside, it’s good to have personal time to do other things, pursue other hobbies and interests, go for a game of golf, meet friends for coffee, have a leisurely hour or so on your own. There’s no need to explain or justify yourself; just smile and stand your ground, you’re busy, have other plans that have already been made.
– If you find revising your automatic response to requests is surprisingly difficult look to address where your compliant mindset has come from. Is it a pattern from childhood, where your household was always concerned with pleasing others, keeping the peace, not disappointing, being readily available? Living in a fragile or vulnerable environment carries tension, sometimes resulting in learned behaviour that needs to be addressed and overcome, maybe through therapy.
Just be aware of how much you say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and what your first reaction is when an offer or request is made. If you think that something is scary but will ultimately be valuable, then why not learn to give it a go? But if your gut tells you this isn’t for you, you really don’t want to do it, and it’s not right for you, you can relax as you gain in confidence and choose to say no.
Susan Leigh, counsellor, hypnotherapist, relationship counsellor, writer & media contributor offers help with relationship issues, stress management, assertiveness and confidence. She works with individual clients, couples and provides corporate workshops and support.
Author of 3 books, ‘Dealing with Stress, Managing its Impact’, ‘101 Days of Inspiration #tipoftheday’ and ‘Dealing with Death, Coping with the Pain’, all on Amazon. To order a copy or for more information, help and free articles visit www.
Susan Leigh, counsellor, hypnotherapist and relationship counsellor.
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