How do you stop saying yes when you honestly just want to say no?
Well, it’s not easy. I used to have a lot of trouble with it.
And so I’d become frustrated and angry with myself and others who had asked me about a favor or help.
While at the same time working on someone else’s goals instead of my own and wasting too much time and energy on that.
Things simply had to change.
So I set out a handful of years ago to learn how to become better at saying no.
Here’s 10 of the best tips, habits and strategies I learned.
1. First, keep in mind why you’re saying no.
When you are about to say no then remember why you are doing it.
Focus on the positive things it will open up in your life such as more time for your family, for your writing or other hobby or simply for relaxing so your stress levels will go down.
Because you need to say no to things to be able to say yes to the things you want out of your life (there isn’t enough time and more importantly energy to do it all).
This positive motivation will help you to go through with your decision even if it feels tough.
One simple way to keep your focus on what’s important in your life both when you need to say no and to just stay on track and not get distracted in your daily life is to ask yourself this:
What are the top 3-5 priorities in my life right now?
It could be spending more quality time with your daughter, your photography hobby, reducing your debt and so on.
Write those top 3-5 priorities down on a post it-note or as a daily reminder in your smart phone (I use the Google Keep app for the reminders on my phone).
This will keep your attention consistently on what truly matters to you.
2. Kindly disarm and then state your need.
It becomes easier for people to accept your no if you kindly disarm them first. You could for example do that by saying that you are flattered and that you appreciate the kind offer.
And be honest about whatever you say.
Then you can, for instance, add that you do not have the time for accepting and doing what they want.
3. Add how you feel about it.
Some pushy people might want to overcome your objections and sell you something or convince you to do something even if you first say no with a valid reason.
Then try this: state how you feel as a reason for saying no.
For example say that you do not feel that this offer is a good fit for your life right now. Or that you feel overwhelmed or your plate is already more than full and so you cannot do whatever they want.
Or that you feel you truly have to keep all your focus on your main project right now.
The point of telling someone how you feel is not only to make them understand your side of the issue better but also that it is a lot harder to argue with how you feel rather than how you think.
4. Help out a bit if possible.
To leave the conversation where you’re saying no in positive way see if you can help out a bit.
Recommend someone that you think would be a better fit and that could help in better way than you can. I do this pretty often when a reader or someone in my life needs help I can’t provide or knowledge that I lack.
5. If you feel a bit guilty then that’s OK.
But just because you feel a bit guilty because you said no doesn’t mean that you have to act on that emotion. Just be with it instead.
When you are with that emotion and allow it to simply be then after a little while it will start to lose steam and become smaller and smaller. And so you can move on.
6. Simply realize that you can’t please some people.
The fact is that with some people you just can’t win. They won’t be pleased. No matter what you do.
Because it’s not about you with this person. It’s about him or her.
It’s about him being in an unhappy marriage or being dragged down by money worries.
Or about her having a sick pet, being tired of her job or that she doesn’t have a good chemistry with you.
Realizing this and that you can’t get everyone to like you no matter if you say yes every single time can help you to put a stop to your people pleasing habit.
And to start focusing more on what YOU deep down want to say yes or no to.
7. Improve your self-esteem.
If you don’t value yourself then you won’t value your time very much either.
This has been very true in my experience.
The most powerful thing I have found – besides keeping my attention consistently on what truly matters to me – to make it easier to say no was to improve my own self-esteem.
With better self-esteem the time and the energy I have has become a lot more valuable to me and I do not want to waste it.
And my sense of what I deserve in life has also gone up and I’m much less tolerant of or likely to give in to other people’s negative ways of persuasion.
Like guilt-tripping, being really pushy or simply trying to take advantage of me.
8. Reminder: you teach people by how you behave.
This is one powerful reason why it’s important to say no when you need to.
Because if you’re assertive about what you don’t want by standing up for yourself and saying no then people will pick up on that.
And over time you will encounter fewer and fewer situations where people try to be pushy or steamroll right over you. This will make life and relationships simpler and more respectful and by being assertive you’ll also improve your self-esteem.
9. Realize that the world will go on.
Remember that just because you say no to something doesn’t mean that the world will stop.
They will find someone else that can do what they want and they’ll manage and life will go on for all of you.
So don’t let a feeling of being almost irreplaceable or words to that effect influence you into saying yes when you really want to say no. That has led many people down a path of resentment, anger and in some cases eventually into being burned out.
10. Celebrate and analyze your successes.
You may not be able to say no to everything you’d like to say no to in your week or month. Even if you use several of the tips in this article.
Don’t put too much focus on those situations though. It will only bring your self-esteem and motivation to cultivate the no-habit down. Learn what you can from them and then move on.
Into focusing mostly on your successes.
You may just have said no in one or a few small ways this week. That is still something new and great in your life so feel good about it. Pat yourself on the back and celebrate in some small way what you have accomplished and how you have grown as a person.
And think a bit about what went well in those interactions and what you can learn from them for the future (and repeat to get the result you want).