How many times have you said yes when you mean no? When you’ve said yes to that additional project at work but you’re already working overtime. When you’ve said yes to helping your friend move but you actually need to catch up on sleep and rest. When you’ve said yes to going out with your partner’s new work colleagues, but you’re not feeling great.
Words by YK Daily's resident life coach Amira Mansour @the_communicationexpert
It often feels easier to say yes rather than to let someone down, although it usually stems from your desire to please other people or to avoid conflict. With every yes you say, something inside you cringes. It’s when the feelings of resentment kick in that you’re always the person they ask for help, the feelings of frustration kick in because it doesn’t actually work with your schedule, or the feelings of annoyance kick in when you remember the last time they borrowed money and didn’t pay you back.
Until you learn how to say ‘no’ or a version to that effect, you’re going to continue with overcommitting your time, feeling under appreciated and have relationships where you aren’t being the best version of yourself.
There’s reasons why you can’t say the word no, why it feels like letting someone down isn’t possible, rather than choosing to acknowledge what you need. Once you understand where this comes from, you get to take your power back and lead a life that feels good for you.
Sometimes, it’s simply a life time habit of saying yes, so saying anything different feels unfamiliar. When someone states their request, you automatically respond without having time to think about what you’d actually like to say. Or perhaps you’re like me and a person of your word, and if you change it you’re worried that you’ll be perceived as the ‘unreliable’ one, or the one that ‘constantly changes their mind’.
By sticking so rigidly to your word means you’re often putting yourself out. For my conflict avoiders out there, you’re saying yes because the thought of upsetting someone else feels bigger than it is. You’re overthinking how the other person will react, you’re worried that you’re being too harsh or that you’ll lose that person or relationship if you do say no. As humans we like to belong, so the threat of being disliked or being excluded from a group can help us understand why saying no often feels bigger than it actually is.
Or maybe you’re the fixer and it’s a role you’ve had since you can remember. People come to you because you’re good at solving problems, because you’ll know what to do, which you take pride in. Maybe you’ve taken on a care-giver role that’s not serving you. And I’m guessing you’re rarely in a position where you ask for help because you’re able to be self-sufficient. Sound familiar?
Whether you’re a people pleaser, conflict avoider or fixer (maybe even all 3,) it is possible to break the habit with practice and awareness.
If you want to change something in your life it starts with becoming aware and getting honest. Why do you find yourself saying yes when you don’t really mean it? Who do you usually say this to? Is it with lots of different people or a select few? Notice these moments without judgment and without beating yourself up. Once you notice it, ask yourself, “Why am I choosing to say yes?” Is it because you don’t want to deal with a difficult conversation, or the thought of confrontation? Maybe it’s because dealing with the emotional discomfort of saying no feels too much. But when you recall the time you lent your friend £500 and didn’t stop thinking about it for the next 2 weeks, wondering if they’d pay it back this time, you realise you said yes because you didn’t want them to think you were unhelpful, or unkind.
So how can you change it and break the habit of a lifetime?
Because you can say no, and still be a good human. You’re allowed to change your mind. So it’s time to step into your power and say yes when it feels truly good for you, instead of living your life on someone else’s terms. So here are my communication tips to help you do exactly that…
Delay Your Answer
Retraining your brain can take time. Particularly when it’s a behaviour you’ve been doing your entire life. It’s about changing your automatic response from, “Yes of course no problem I can do that” to “Let me think about that and I’ll get back to you” or “I’ll check my diary and let you know”. This is a useful technique because the aim is to give your brain time to think. By saying you’ll get back to them, means you don’t need to answer in the moment and you can actually decide whether this is something you want to say yes or no to.
Ask For More Information
Once you find it a little easier to delay your answer and consider what you actually want, it’ll be helpful to start to introduce questions into the conversation. By asking for more information you can decide whether it’s something that is going to work for you and feels good. For example, “What does the project involve and how much time do you think it needs?” The more information you gather, the more you get to decide if it’s something you can and want to do, whether that’s with your team at work or your partner at home.
Identify Your Priorities
If you aren’t able to articulate what’s important to you right now, or where your focus is, you’ll probably have a difficult time deciding what you ‘should’ say yes to, or where you can say no. Take time to get specific and identify what’s important to you. This applies to your relationship, your family, your career and your friends. We all have a limited amount of energy and the more you’re able to define what’s important to you, the happier you’ll feel within yourself and in your relationships.
Create Your Boundaries
What are your emotional boundaries? Boundaries are the way you get to honour your needs and also enable other people to honour what you need too. Sometimes we have a misconception that asking for what we need is selfish, or people won’t like us for doing it. However, this is the narrative and story in our mind that we need to change. It’s not the truth, it’s what we’ve believed to be the truth. And the more you’re able to communicate your boundaries, the more you’ll feel your personal space is respected and the resentment and frustration will ebb away.
It Doesn’t Mean That Much To Them
Our minds are powerful, and before we know it, we’ve created an entire story about how the other person will react when we say no, how they’ll feel and why we’re a bad person for not agreeing and saying yes. But it’s not realistic to say yes to everyone and everything, unless you’re pretty set on living a life where your energy feels depleted. So it’s useful to remember that the other person isn’t usually worrying in the same way that you are about your response.
Once you’ve found the power to say, “I’m not able to help at the weekend”, they’ll find someone else who can. And if you’re on the road to recovering from people pleasing, it’s not a bad shout if people start asking you less! Being able to say yes when you mean it and no when you don’t is one of the biggest acts of self-love and self-compassion. It allows you to live your true, authentic self and create stable healthy relationships. And I’m pretty sure that’s something you will desire from life.
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