“I wish I hadn’t agreed to help,” cried my friend. “I really don’t want to and don’t have the time or the energy!”
“So, why did you say yes?” I asked. As we continued the conversation, I noticed a familiar pattern: We often agree to getting involved in situations, even when we don’t want to nor have the capacity to, because we want to be regarded in a positive way (helpful, co-operative, agreeable, likeable etc.), and not to be seen in a negative way (difficult, rude etc.).
Now, sometimes, we have no choice but to say Yes.
However, for other situations, consider these questions:
- How do we truly know what the other person will think of us when we say No?
- What is the cost to us of saying Yes; of not saying No?
- Is the ever increasing “to-do” list sustainable?
- Is there another way?
In his book, Language and the Pursuit of Happiness, Chalmers Brothers explains that either response results in a different set of circumstances for us: “The simple act of declaring Yes or No is not an act of describing anything. It is an act of opening certain possibilities and closing others, of entering into some situations and moving away from others.”
So, what possibilities do we want to open or create for us? What situations do we want to stop or move away from? And, how do we begin the process?
Here are some suggestions to start the practice of saying No:
- Take a deep and gentle breath. Take a few more. This calms us down.
- We don’t always know, truly, what the other person will be thinking when we say No. Perhaps, there is judgement. If so, how much value do we want to place on that judgement? Are there other things more meaningful to us than the judgement?
- What would saying No enable us to do? Now that we have one less commitment, what else can we do, or take care of, with that time and energy?
- Keep practicing saying No. It is a new habit that will take time and practice.
There is value in saying No. “It is a powerful tool to enable us to manage our commitments,” explains Chalmers Brothers, adding, “Without it, managing commitments is virtually impossible and we quickly realize that others are running our lives.”
Shahin Sharma, BA ACC