Throughout our lifetime, we are told to be nice to others, to help others, to do for others which, yes, it is the humane way to be. We learn to be helpful and focus on others, especially those who may be more in-need than ourselves.
But, why is that many individuals will do more for others but forget about themselves, at least until it becomes apparent that their own needs are being neglected. For many of us, saying no is difficult. Often, our roles lead us to focus on others, i.e. to be good, unselfish, and compliant and to take responsibility for keeping other people happy.
Have you ever said yes to someone else or took on other’s work to help them out? I am sure we’ve all done this at one time or another. Now, there is nothing wrong with helping others out but it becomes detrimental when your own needs are put aside.
When you consistently take responsibility for others’ happiness, i.e. helping them out, the chances are that the following things will happen:
- your feelings of self-worth become dependent on other people
- you end up with little or no boundaries
- people expect you to be there for them all the time
- you become exhausted, stressed, and resentful
- you won’t have time to do the things you want to do by yourself or with your friends and family
…and people won’t even be grateful! If this is you, now is the time to take back your power, set some clear boundaries, and say no. The fear of failing or disappointing someone, or the criticism and anger that may result (which you don’t really know the outcome) when your efforts are not reciprocated.
The key to stopping over-extending, and pleasing others, is to assess the reason(s) for the behavior in the first place; perhaps it’s to be looked at as a good person or from a lack of self-worth. Knowing your reasons behind then can lead you out of the people-pleasing mode and coming from a place of authenticity and true desire.
Changing this behavior will take some effort, but here are some tips to make saying “no” a whole lot easier:
- Don’t explain
You don’t owe anyone an explanation – keep it simple and merely say no. If that feels too blunt, you can dress it up a little by saying ‘I’m sorry but I can’t”. But you don’t need a story or an excuse or a note from your mother. In fact, the more you say, the more you’re giving the other person to hold onto and try to get you to change your mind. Be clear, firm and direct and don’t give them any wriggle room.
- Don’t respond straight away.
If it’s a message or email or phone request, you don’t have to let them know right away. Buy yourself some time and reply when it suits you. That way you can break the habit of a kneejerk ‘yes’ and decide whether you want to do it or not.
- Maybe compromise
Compromising with a request is possible. Maybe you can do next week but not tomorrow, or lunch rather than dinner. Only do what feels right and don’t let any compromise become a slippery slope for falling back into the habit of doing what everyone else wants.
- Don’t make it personal
Saying no to the request is not rejecting the person. Be clear in your mind that saying no doesn’t mean you are a bad person or that you’re saying the other person is bad or undeserving. You have the right to say no if you don’t want to do something or if now is not a good time. I find that people are more understanding than when believe – they know when they are ‘pushing the envelope.’
- Say no to your kids!
Do your children a favor and set clear boundaries with them. They need to know what’s okay and what’s not. Learning to deal with ‘no’ will prepare them much better for living in the real world where they won’t get everything they want.
- Respect Your Time
Saying no also means your time – taking on too much is what leads to overwhelm and stress, not to mention resentment. If you work from home, put a sign on your door so you won’t be disturbed; put your email or phone on silence for a couple hours to get work done; take a break and rest as needed.
- Trust yourself
Learning to set boundaries and say ‘no’ will build your self-respect and honor your rights as an individual. Respecting your own needs and boundaries will inspire respect in others. The more you keep your boundaries intact, the better you will feel. Giving will now come from a true place of giving.
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