We lead busy lives these days. Family, work, home, kids’ activities, these all take up a lot of time. Many people tell me that they get over-scheduled and don’t have any down time. Some of the things on the calendar are priorities, and some are fun. Others are things they’d just as soon avoid. So why keep doing them?
One reason is that it can be difficult to say no. Women, in particular, seem to struggle with this. We want to please people, and we want to be liked, and saying no doesn’t go along with these goals. However, saying yes when we want to say no puts us in the position of agreeing to things in an effort to be liked, rather than a genuine interest. Not only will the activity feel like a burden, we may end up resentful or irritated by the whole thing.
When I agree to something out of a desire to please others, I’m putting myself second. I’m effectively saying the person asking is more important than me, because I’ve accepted their needs as a priority over my own. If I do this enough times, I demote myself further and further down the list. I may eventually feel I don’t even have choices anymore! Other people will certainly pick up on this, and you can bet there will be some who will take advantage of it. If you wonder why everyone always asks you to do things, look at your track record. Could it be because you always say yes?
Now I know people who truly don’t mind heading every committee, and I know others who enjoy having the entire neighborhood in their backyard every afternoon. If you are that person, then say yes! If, however, the activity leaves you feeling empty, or worse, resentful, explore your reasons for agreeing to do it. There are clearly duties that are annoying but obligatory. Other times, I don’t relish the chore, but want to help the person asking. If my reasons for accepting are in line with my own priorities, I will say yes. Otherwise, I should politely decline and allow someone who is truly committed to take over the task.
It won’t be easy the first several times you say no, especially if people expect you to say yes. I find it best to be brief, without a lot of excuses. I prefer to simply say “I’m sorry, but I’m not able to do that at this time.” Polite, succinct, and no room for arguing. It quickly conveys that my reasons for declining are my own business. Practice saying it, and remember that you don’t need to justify every no. In the long run, your schedule may not get any lighter, but it will be filled with things you truly want to do. You will also be treating yourself with the respect you deserve.