The answer is no

Published On: November 24, 2017 09:36 AM NPT By: Aditi Sharma

I have watched movies I didn’t want to watch in the first place, gone to places I didn’t want to go to, hung out on Friday nights when I was sick and actually wanted to stay in bed, and bought expensive raffles or charity event tickets when there were at least a dozen things I could have used all that money for. And all this happened because I simply couldn’t utter one simple word: No. 

I find it really hard to say no when people ask me for something. Even if I’m internally screaming a big no to something someone has asked of me, I find myself nodding and agreeing to his/her requests, however silly it might be. This habit often lands me in situations I would ideally want to avoid. I recently went on a double date with people I’m not very comfortable with simply because they suggested it and was in a noticeably bad mood throughout dinner. Even a glass of red wine (and a shot of vodka immediately after) did nothing to cheer me up. I ruined the evening and I don’t think they will ask us out for dinner anytime soon. Now I feel bad for my husband who is really close friends with this couple who, by the way, are very nice. It’s just that I don’t know them very well. 

The thing with saying no is that it’s hard. There’s something unpleasing about letting the other person down and/or getting confrontational that unsettles me. To avoid that temporary situation, I end up saying yes to things I would rather not be a part of. This, I’ve come to realize, always makes me feel a little inferior and puts me in a bad mood. And the worst part is that though I really want to change this habit, I find myself unable to do so. 
My mom thinks I don’t like to say no because I’m a people pleaser and I agree with her. I don’t like hurting, angering, or disappointing anyone. And I always want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying no, I think, can sometimes jeopardize that. But as I increasingly find myself in situations where I feel people are taking advantage of me because of my inability to say no, I have decided it’s time work on my habit and learn to say yes only to things I want to do. I know it might be discomfiting in the beginning but, in the long run, it will serve me well. 

A wise friend once told me that you have to create boundaries in every relationship and when you don’t set a limit to what you can and cannot do, then you will always be taken advantage of.  She has learnt her lessons in this the hard way, always having said yes to things and suffered because of it. She says every time you say no to something that you would have said yes to in the past, you are setting limits and creating boundaries while conditioning yourself to say no easily in the future. 

Saying no, she says, isn’t a bad thing at all. It shows people that you value your time and effort and sends them silent messages to do the same, and not take your niceness for granted either. And there have been many studies that prove that saying no improves productivity and mental health. In this case, I ask myself, can I afford to keeping saying yes and regretting it? 

I recently read that successful people know how to say no but that’s not something that comes naturally to them. Somewhere along the line they have had to teach themselves how to say no to things they don’t want to commit themselves to. Warren Buffet once said that the difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything. 

But the people-pleasing part of my ego still hates the idea of saying no and recently when I did say no to a friend, I found myself coming up with many excuses to soften the blow of the no. Though I didn’t have to play dodge ball with a ridiculous request, I also didn’t like hearing the whiny voice that told me I was a good for nothing friend and the blackmailing session was even worse. The weird thing is that you will only know how nice people are when you stop being as nice as they want you to be to them. Sometimes, you will lose a friend or two but that’s a small price to pay for your time, effort, and sanity. And if people are only friends with you because you would do anything for them, and give in to their absurd wants and demands, then maybe it’s time to make some new friends. But I’m digressing here. 

A good way to say no, for those who are just beginning to use the word, is to respond by saying, “Let me think about it”, says my supervisor at work who is known for being straightforward and even blunt when the situation demands it. This way, you not only buy yourself some time but you also get to mentally prepare yourself to turn down the request. As someone whose initial reaction to almost any request is a jovial “sure”, I think I can actually say that line without feeling too awkward. 

Yes, we want others to like us, accept us, and want us. We want to show up for them, meet their expectations, and please them. And sometimes you saying no can even be heartbreaking for someone else but so is saying yes when you don’t really mean it. And at least, you won’t foster resentment and regret by being forced to do something you would rather not. A note on my dressing table mirror at the moment reads: Be kind to yourself, say no.

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