We have all experienced a moment where we have been approached by a friend, co-worker, or maybe even a spouse and asked to do something we really didn’t feel like doing. We’ve also had those moments where instead of saying no, we’ve smiled and responded with the dreaded “yes”. So why do we have difficulties telling others no when we don’t feel like doing something?
The Golden Rule Effect
Many of us were instructed at a very young age to “do unto others as you would have them to do unto you”. Sometimes we may avoid telling someone no because we would want them to tell us yes.
Fear of a Missed Opportunity
This seems to be especially true in work settings. When presented with a task from a supervisor, many often feel compelled to say yes. We may find ourselves saying yes hoping that other opportunites will come in the future and fearful that if we say no, we may be overlooked when they do.
Fear of Conflict
Some of us avoid saying no simply because we don’t want to argue. It may be easier to give a regretful yes, than a strong no.
Not Wanting to Appear Rude or Insensitive
You may be faced with a situation where your friend’s babysitter cancels at the last minute or your co-worker needs help on an assignment – you don’t want to be the “bad guy”. No one really wants to be the person to say no when someone else is in a bind.
It’s important to remember that it’s ok to say no. As a matter of fact there are several benefits to saying no. We may find ourselves having more energy because we are not overworked or stressed. We may have more time to enjoy the things we like to do becuase we are not doing everything for everyone else. At the end of the day, we may even notice that we feel more in control.
If you find yourself struggling with saying no, try the following suggestions:
Recommend an alternative
Instead of simply saying no and just walking away, offer an alternative. For example, “I don’t have time to help you with that assignment, have you considered asking for an extension?”
Delay your response
If you are not strong enough in the moment to say “no”, simply say “let me get back to you”. It’s important to eventually give an answer, but you don’t have to do so right away.
If you don’t have the time, say you don’t have the time. If you don’t really want to, just say you don’t. It’s ok to say no. It’s important to remember you don’t owe an explanation to anyone and sometimes the answer may just be “no”.
Prime Minister Tony Blair stated, “the art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes”. If we don’t learn to say no to the things we don’t want to or don’t have time to do, we won’t be able to yes to things we’d like.
Woman saying no photo available from Shutterstock
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Last reviewed: 10 Sep 2012