How to Say No and Be Fulfilled in Work and in Life
It’s hard to say no. From pressure to look agreeable and easy-going to the desire to avoid conflict, there are many reasons why we sometimes say yes when we don’t really want to.
But the reality is: saying yes all the time can be both physically and mentally exhausting. If we continue agreeing to things we don’t want to do, we neglect ourselves and our bodies, which can sometimes lead to burnout.
Burnout — or a mental and physical exhaustion created by prolonged stress — can manifest itself as decreased work performance, self-doubt, loss of appetite, or even depression. In severe cases, it can also weaken your immune system and lead to increased illness.
By learning to say no, we can put an increased focus on our mental and physical health that can increase our overall happiness. Saying no to things we can’t or don’t want to do allows us to focus on nurturing our own mental health, while also staying true to our personal goals.
Learning to say no is a hard but important battle. Skip down to our infographic or read on for some tips on how to get started.
How to Say No
Learning to say no effectively and decisively can be a process. Many people struggle with the ability to politely and firmly decline an invitation, work obligation, or request from family. Read on for a few tips to navigate these tricky situations.
Be Firm and Succinct
There’s no need to over-explain your response. Use strong body language and a confident voice — remember that you don’t need to apologize or ask permission to say no.
Try saying: “I can’t tonight, but thank you for the invite” or “Tonight won’t work, but next week will” is plenty of explanation.
Take Your Time
Unless the request is time sensitive, you can take a moment to reflect before responding. This will help you avoid saying yes prematurely, and you can take a moment to decide whether or not it’s something you truly want to do.
Try saying: “Thanks for asking, I’ll get back to you,” and give yourself a few extra hours to think about it.
Compromise When Possible
Just because something doesn’t work for you now doesn’t mean it won’t in the future. Instead of an outright “no,” you can try to come up with a solution that works for everyone.
Try saying: “How about next week?” or “Could I work on half of the project, and you do the other half?”
Rethink Your Assumptions
Saying no to a dinner date or social gathering doesn’t mean you’re rude or standoffish — and, usually, people understand! Though there is sometimes a negative stigma attached to saying no, the reality is that most people will understand why you are doing so. Retrain your brain to realize that everyone has to say no sometimes.
Set Your Boundaries
Knowing your boundaries can make it easier for you to navigate when to say no and when to agree. For example, if you don’t want to drink alcohol on weeknights, it makes sense for you to say no to a Tuesday night happy hour with your coworkers. Setting these rules for yourself ahead of time makes it easier to decide when the time comes, and gives you an easy way to say no.
Once you start practicing how to say no, it may start coming easier to you! Check out our infographic for tips on how to start.
Saying no is a skill that requires practice. Once you start learning how, you’ll find it gets easier over time to assert yourself and focus on your goals.
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