Learning to Say ‘No’ in a ‘Yes’ Society

It’s in our nature to say ‘yes’. As social creatures, we love nothing more than pleasing the pack and making sure everyone’s happy. But, as burnout levels rise nationwide, we have to ask ourselves, are we saying ‘yes’ too much? The answer is probably yes.

To be fully rested, the average person needs approximately five hours of downtime per day. Yet, as overtime soared during the national lockdown and the ease of the internet brings an ‘always on’ mentality, we simply aren’t making time for ourselves. Whether you’re too afraid to say no to a friend or you want to impress your manager, the idea of rejecting helping others when you’re overworked has become alien to the human race.

There’s no ‘no’ in ‘selfish’

As people with low confidence typically say ‘yes’ more often and rate other’s needs more highly than their own, it’s time to embrace the fact that just because you may be saying ‘no’ it doesn’t make you a bad person. You need to separate refusal from the rejection, as you’re not saying no to a person but rather the task or offer they’re presenting you.

As Rene Brown says, “compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.”

Saying ‘no’ will also give you a sense of empowerment, says professor Vanessa M. Patrick, as it “reflects that you are in the driver’s seat of your own life”, and you’re not waiting around for someone else to take you for a spin. So, even though someone else might be going faster than you and need a little push, that doesn’t mean you should get lost in a tailspin.

So next time someone asks you for help, look at your calendar and decide what would work best for you. If you’re about to enter a busy period, it’s okay to prioritise yourself and the tasks you need to accomplish.

Rebranding a rejection

More often than not, the way you phrase a rejection may lead to you to be persuaded into taking part. Doing something as simple as changing your verbs and saying ‘will’ instead of ‘could’ or ‘choose to’ instead of ‘have to’ can lead you to be more confident in your answer.

While the idea of turning people down can seem overwhelming at first, you could start by being more assertive in low-risk situations. For example, if you’re buying something and a sales assistant wants your email address, instead of giving in or saying ‘not today, thank you’, refuse and tell them that you ‘don’t’ want that.

Another idea is to turn your ‘no’ into a solution. So next time a colleague asks you to take on some of their work — and when you decline — help them figure out what they can do instead. For example: asking their manager for an extension, or pointing them in the right direction of someone who can.

The bottom line: the sooner you feel comfortable with saying no, the easier it will be to reject ideas in the future.

Choose your yeses

Just because you’re making a conscious effort to say no, doesn’t mean you can’t agree to things. As you begin to set personal boundaries and take some time for yourself, you should start ‘choosing your yeses wisely.’

Making a conscious effort to ‘say no to good things and yes to great things’, yourself and others will not only value you and your time more, but also what you can truly offer the table when you’re not burnt out. By saying ‘no’ more often, you’ll make your ‘yes’ even more powerful.

Written by Alison Irlam
WellBe is spearheading the way to a brighter future for corporate wellness. Our innovative portal is scientifically designed and tailored to each individual employee to improve their wellbeing. We specialise in a range of services from coaching and therapists, to meditation and reading materials. Our aim is to reduce workplace stress that costs UK businesses £42 billion per year. Get in touch with us by visiting our site wellbe.global for more information.

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