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The Crushing Burden of Yes

By Khyati Shah
Transformation Coach coach

24 July 2020

Executive Coach

OR the liberating freedom of ‘No’?

Often, people find themselves trapped in their inability to refuse something or say ‘no’ to someone and end up saying ‘yes’ which makes them regretful and want to kick themselves later. I am sure you have found yourself in one of the following situations:

  • Boss piling more work on you, because you are ‘efficient’
  • Colleagues requesting you to fill in for them
  • Friends or relatives asking for favours – monetary or otherwise
  • An aunt stuffing your plate with high calorie goodies, when you are trying to diet
  • Committing to a relationship when you were not ready
  • Giving in to your children’s demands

The worst part is that this is a vicious cycle. Each time you are asked to do something you do not want to, but say ‘yes’, you get into the mode of regret and resentment. At the same time, you give a message of being ‘available’ to the other person, so they keep coming back! On the other hand, a ‘no’ actually liberates you from this cycle. Once you express that you are unable to fulfil the request or are not available for that person, you feel a sense of freedom from the pressure of having to do something you do not want to. It also gives a signal that you cannot be taken for granted.

We have been conditioned to believe that we should be nice to everyone, even if to our own detriment. We believe that saying no is uncaring, even selfish, and we may have a fear of disappointing other people. On top of this may be a fear of being disliked, criticized, or risking a friendship. We want to be accepted and liked. We don’t want to miss out on a poorly timed opportunity.

Interestingly, the ability to say no is closely linked to self-confidence. People with low self-confidence and self-esteem often feel nervous about antagonizing others and tend to rate others’ needs more highly than their own. If you have become a “people-pleaser,” your self-worth may have come to depend on the things you do for other people. Women in particular are prone to falling into the trap.

Being unable to say no can make you exhausted, stressed and irritable. 

Yet, many people find it very difficult to say no. Here are some tips for you to first figure out whether you want to say a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’, and then how to say it. When faced with a request, first control any impulsive response out of habit. Think whether your reply is motivated by guilt or excitement, fear or desire, compulsion or choice. Once you arrive at a ‘no’, here is how you can communicate it without rubbing anyone wrong:

  1. Acknowledge that you can’t do everything and can’t please everyone.
  2. Keep your reply simple – just say it. Remember you are not obliged to explain your ‘no’. If you must, keep it short and simple.
  3. Communicate it respectfully – a ‘no’ does not have to be aggressive. You are rejecting the request, not the person.
  4. Buy yourself some time. In case you find it difficult to refuse immediately, say “I’ll get back to you,” then consider your options, you will be able to say no with greater confidence.
  5. Define your personal boundaries – Let your friends, family and children know what they can and cannot expect from you.
  6. Identify your priorities – Be clear and honest with yourself about what you truly want. Get to know yourself better and examine what you really want from life.
  7. Never compromise on your integrity – if you don’t feel good about it, stand up for yourself.

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