the ability to say “no” while staying firm but without feeling guilty or accidentally agreeing to something you don’t want seems like the ultimate feat of verbal acrobatics.
at least there’s a hierarchy people we refuse, right? the least nerve-racking type is the stranger, to whom most of us can say “no” all day long. you just need to be polite.
rando solicitor dude outside trader joe’s: “girl in the purple pants, i’d love to meet you!”
me: “no, thank you.”
:: bystanders chuckle, i go on with my life, all parties survive ::
but generally, the closer you get to your inner circle the more difficult it becomes to refuse someone. however, saying “no” is part of taking care of yourself and is a win for team you, although it might not feel that way in the moment.
instead, take the advice of Brene Brown, the author and social work Ph.d, who says, “choose discomfort in the moment versus resentment later.” meaning, if saying “yes” will lead to bitterness, choose the unpleasantness of saying “no” now.
resenting the other person is bad, but even worse you’ll berate yourself for getting into the situation. do “what was i thinking?” or “why did i ever agree to this?” sound familiar?
this frustration toward yourself is most dangerous, since it can continue boiling inside and become habitual.
do whatever it takes to be ready when people approach with a request. i recommend buying a little time ("can i think about it?") and preparing by speaking your honest explanation aloud to yourself. a solid one, which people probably appreciate, is: i can’t fully commit and i don’t want to half-heartedly agree now, only to back out later.
or the high-minded among you might prefer to quote Gandhi, “a ‘no’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.”
think about it from the other person’s perspective: you ask someone to do something, they agree, and you feel like you’ve got them locked in. you’re moving on to the next items on your agenda when suddenly that person comes back and says no, they actually can’t do what they originally agreed.
that’s really when you’re letting people down. saying “no” from the start gets you free and clear and gives them time to find alternatives. the false expectation is so much worse.
do you have trouble saying “no”? how do you handle it?