How To Say 'No'

For so many of us, saying yes comes easy. But when it comes to saying no, I am pretty sure I won't be the only one to struggle a little more. A few weeks ago I spent the day at Women's Health and we were talking about the idea of saying no and what we can do to empower ourselves and each other to use the magic word more often.

Most of us like to keep other people happy and by saying yes to someone else in whatever capacity we risk spreading ourselves too thinly. We have a finite amount of energy and we have a responsibility to protect it (more on this coming soon) and learning to say no without guilt is a very powerful tool to preserving ourselves and to sticking to things that fill us up too!

It is all very well saying the word itself, but the trouble is that we can then chew over our decision, making us feel anxious or guilty. So what can we do to say no and leave it at that? Well of course it depends on the situation but I've come up with some tips that I find really helpful in managing this sort of thing without leaving myself feeling guilty.

The thing that lots of you ask about is saying no in social situations. This was something I struggles with a lot a few years ago. My interests changed a little and I was less inclined to spend my free time going out. But my friends would still invite me and I found it very challenging to say no. Often I would go along anyway just to show my face, and I am sure I wasn't the most exciting company when I didn't want to be there. Over time I learned to say no in a really honest way - by telling them the truth. In stead of making excuses (money, time, other commitments etc.) that didn't really exist, I learned to be honest with my friends and say that it just wasn't what I felt like doing.

At first, it can take people a little while to understand, but over time we found other ways to spend time together that we all enjoyed. I didn't take away from them having fun, I was just choosing how to spend my time. Helping them to understand that it wasn't because I didn't want to see them, but that I would like to try hanging out in different ways, was a really great conversation to have and one I am still so happy with now.

I someone wants your help in a capacity that you can't commit to for whatever reason (even if you just don't want to), be honest about it and if you have an alternative then point them that way. Don't palm them off, but if you know of resources that are genuinely going to help them, then that in itself is helpful of you. Job Done!

Don't leave people hanging either - tell it straight and get it out of your head. Of course, mull it over if you need to but it is much better to say no now, with a brief explanation than leave them stuck down the line, especially when deadlines are involved.

When I was reading around this topic last week, one of the things that kept coming up was lending money to friends. If this is something that you find hard or want to avoid, I came accross some really good advice that is worth sharing! There is a big difference in the impact of the way we say no. "I don't want to" or "I can't" is very different to "as a rule, I don't" do something. That way, it isn't personal and you wont cause offence to the individual - just make sure you stick to your rule in case close friends talk and you say something different to someone else!

I guess it comes down to having the confidence in the things that are important to us and that in itself can present a challenge. But surrounding yourself with people that understand you is so valuable and you always have the option to say no without feeling guilty, because deep down a happier version of you will help you to serve better to those around you but in ways that you choose!


Annie Clarke