We Should All Learn To Say No

It dawned on me very recently that I have a very big problem. I cannot say no to people. Of course I can stretch to telling my siblings where to go and have a whole list of reasons not to do housework, but when it comes to the bigger things in life, I need help. This is where I turn to you.

On my way home last week I popped into my local bank to ask a question about my account, as a result of my inability to say no I returned home with a new savings account and a tree’s worth of leaflets about other accounts that would apparently make my life utterly wonderful. I was having a serious Ross and Chandler “I want to quit the bank” problem.

Things were then complicated when I was curb crawled by my local Avon sales representative who took one glimpse at my lipstick and decided that she wanted me to join her cohort of unemployed women who believe that selling make up to your neighbours counts as having your own business. Of course I said yes and now I am the embarrassed owner of 12 Avon brochures that I’m never going to distribute.

According to my quick Google search I’m not the only one who’s managed to get into such a kerfuffle with not being able to say no. For example one girl posted on a forum; “I can’t say no to people – I’ve been with my boyfriend for years and I hate him, please help me chuck him out.” Another girl had a problem with being friendless; “I’ve started saying no to my friends and now I hardly see them. I couldn’t count on all my fingers and toes how many times I’ve sat out with people wishing I was at home because I couldn’t think of an excuse to say no to going out in the first place.”

According to Psychology Today we as human beings have a huge problem with being able to say no, often taking on too much work and then feeling bad when we’re unable to deliver our promises. The psychology of the matter is that we have a need to fill our days due to our insatiable sense of time.

Psychology Today writes; “It’s difficult to learn from feedback that time will not be more abundant in the future because of the irregular ways people spend their time,” researchers write in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. “Although many people may perceive themselves to be quite busy almost every day of their lives, the specific activities vary from day to day. Consequently, they do not learn from feedback that, in aggregate, total demands are similar.”

Zenhabits suggest that there are different reasons we find it hard, listing key reasons we struggle; wanting to help, being scared of seeming rude, wanting to be agreeable, fear of conflict, fear of lost opportunities and not burning bridges. I must say I agree with this a lot more than I do the hardened research. Yes, I want to make my day to day life fulfilling but I say yes to things for more of the reasons listed above than anything else.

So what’s the solution? Zenhabits suggest the following:

  • Don’t do it if you can’t commit to it.
  • Fix a date if you can’t do it now.
  • Tell whoever’s approached you that you’re flattered but…
  • Seriously think about it.
  • Don’t do it if it doesn’t suit your needs.
  • Don’t undertake a task if you’re not the best person for the job.
  • Simply say “No, I can’t.” It needs no exlpaination.

I’m certainly going to give this a try for a week and see if it makes my life a tiny bit easier! If you have the same problem why not have a go and tweet me about how you get on @CarleanneGwen.

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