In the book Pretty Neat, there is a whole chapter on Learn to Just Say No. Saying Yes too many times is what has gotten many women (and men) into a mess. We say yes too many times and we end up with a full plate of responsibilities and a full calendar of activities.
Why we can’t say NO
Why does this seem to be such a problem? Why does it plague so many of us?
The authors brought it back to our younger self, when we so wanted to be loved and accepted by those around us, so we would eagerly accept what was presented to us. We wanted to fit in the clique in school, or in the office camaraderie. And even in our own neighborhoods and churches.
We also were looking for love and acceptance from our families (especially our mothers and mothers-in-law) so we took on things they may have asked us to do, accepted responsibility for something that may have been important to someone else, but not necessarily to you.
We do these things out of the need to fit in, as well as out of a sense of guilt. We feel we still need to do what our mother asks of us. We want our sister-in-law to accept us into the family, so we do what she asks of us at the holiday season.
Not that it is inherently wrong to something for someone else, or because it will make someone happy. We SHOULD do those things too, but out of love and consideration for the other person and not out of guilt.
Saying No as we age
In our 20s we still want to be accepted so badly. In our 30s, we are having children, making a home, and while we are learning to say what we do and don’t want, we still want to feel like we belong or fit in.
It is usually not until our 40s that we really begin to come into our own and believe we have a right to put our needs and desires before those of everyone else. We are more comfortable in our own skin and don’t worry so much about what everyone thinks about us anymore.
And as we move into our 50s and 60s, we really begin to stand up more for ourselves. Sometimes we think of middle-aged and older people as more opinionated. It is not that they didn’t have opinions before then, but it wasn’t until they reached the point in their life where they felt like they could express what they wanted.
Learn to say No again, like a 2 year old
Well, not REALLY like a 2 year old, but with some boldness and confidence mixed with some kindness and manners! We won’t be hands on hips, feet planted firmly and screaming NO! At least not on the outside!
4 steps to saying NO
Here are 4 ways to help you learn to say no and free up some time and release yourself from the guilt!
1. Establish some policies- Maybe set a rule “No weekday evening meetings” or “No Saturday classes”. Set guidelines at the beginning of the new school year for what you will be available to help with. Commit to that, and that alone.
When I had a household of busy teens, Monday evening was sacred. No one was allowed to make plans or schedule any regular activity on Monday. We had dinner together, sat around and talked or watched a movie. Our Monday night policy made it easier to say No.
2. Don’t give an answer right away- Ask for some time to check your schedule, check with your husband, work, children, etc. Then ask yourself some questions as to how important is it that you do what is being asked of you. Think over how it lines up with your priorities for your family. If it doesn’t fit, say NO.
3. Script responses- When asked to do something, some of us don’t know how to make the word NO come out of our mouths. Practice how you will say it. One of my favorite lines is: “Due to the responsibilities of my family/job, this is not something I can do right now.” Do not feel like you have to explain, or give good enough reasons why you can’t do what is being asked.
This is a little harsh, but “No” is actually a complete sentence. Don’t justify why you are saying no. Give yourself permission to just SAY IT.
4. Strike compromises- When the request is from someone close to you, or someone you have some responsibility for (job/extended family) and you really feel you need to say Yes, but it is a conflict with the rest of your life, see if a compromise can be made.
Your child wants you to come to field day, but you cannot give up all day at work. Suggest you come for half-day, or the closing ceremony. If your mother asks if your family can come spend the entire Thanksgiving weekend at her house, but it really doesn’t fit in with what you are able to do, suggest that you can come Wednesday evening through Friday instead.
Saying No all comes down to knowing what you want to do in your life and then being able to say No if something goes against that.
Another reason we may sometimes get stuck doing things we really didn’t want to do is because we are letting life just happen to us. We aren’t making decisions upfront as to how we want to live our life. Don’t live your life in default mode. Make decisions and guidelines ahead of time so that there is no question when you are presented with certain things.
I encourage you to practice saying NO today!