If saying “NO” is not an easy thing for you to do, join the club. It’s like we are wired from the beginning to say “YES” to everything. It’s the polite thing to do, right? So, once we start doing that from the get-go it’s a habit and then by the time you’re in your mid-twenties and you are overcommitted and can’t figure out how that happened. I feel like I could be the president of the club most days. And I’ve improved. You don’t want to let anyone down and they need you. Well, who is the affecting more, them or you? My guess would be you because you’ve taken on more than you can chew and it very well could be affecting your other relationships. Your boss asked you to take on another huge project that keeps you after work late, which consequently prevents you from getting home to your spouse or family. Who is taking the hit? How can you confidently say no and not forsake losing your job, friends, family, or peace of mind?
First, check out the book “Boundaries” by Henry Cloud (he’s got books on all sorts of boundaries for all sorts of relationships). He covers everything you need to know to protect yourself while still keeping friends. I recommend it to 90% of the people who walk in my door. We all need it.
Practice saying no. Say it to yourself in the mirror. Say it to your dog. Tell your cat no. Do not be afraid of the word no. You can say it politely, “Thank you for the offer but…”, “How about we revisit this next week…”, “No, I don’t think that’s a very good idea…” No is in the language for a reason. If you give in and you don’t want to, that will lead you to resentment.
Reverse the roles. So, Sally wants to go to drinks and you’ve already committed to Donald to go to dinner. No need to overbook yourself. You might be worried Sally will never ask you to drinks again or her feelings will be hurt. Change the scenario. You ask Sally for drinks, Sally says, “I wish I could, but I already have plans to eat with Donald tonight.” Easy. You understand, so Sally will understand as well. I am sure you make great company, but your friend will be okay if you can’t make it to everything they ask you to.
Does it make you happy? If all of the running around and pleasing other people is exhausting and you find yourself more annoyed than enjoying what you’ve agreed to, take a time out. Do something for yourself. Turn your phone off. Go to a movie alone. Do something you want to do because you want to do it. Not because someone has asked you to or you’re expected to. You can’t always be the volunteer that chairs every event your local college chapter has, the classroom parent who plans all the holiday parties, or the go-to man in your office that gets all the projects. You will burn out.
Remember, NO is not a bad word.