Written by: Debbie Stokes
No is such a small word but also an unbelievable BIG word. A word most find hard to say when family, friends, or co-workers are asking for something of you.
I mean how many of you have ever been asked to do something you didn’t want to do? Most of us can probably answer yes to one or all of these questions.
Can you give me a ride?
Can I borrow your car?
Can I borrow $20 dollars?
Can you watch my child this weekend?
You get the idea, especially when they know you have the money to lend, the time to watch their child, or can give them a ride.
But the truth is, you don’t feel like watching the kids, you don’t want to lend your money because you know you’re not going to get it back, and you don’t feel like giving them a ride, and definitely, not loaning your car.
We’ve all been there.
So often, we are led to believe if we say NO, we aren’t being reasonable, understandable, or that we are being selfish.
“Why is it so hard for us to say no?”
I remember many years ago I heard Oprah Winfrey say it took her a long time to be able to say no.
How could it be so hard for such a powerful woman who gives orders on a daily basis to have a problem with saying no to family, friends, and personal charity cases?
She’s a woman who had built a media conglomerate, had interactions with CEOs, kings and queens, and some of the wealthiest people in the world, and still struggled to say “no.”
She mentioned how she would feel guilty because she worried about the other person’s feelings.
I mean, what would they think of her if she didn’t say yes, right?
However, after years and years of getting tired of giving, and after doing some deep evaluation, she made the choice to learn to say “no” in order to gain her peace and get her control back.
Imagine if we could all muster up enough nerve to say no to things we really didn’t want to do.
Sure, there are times and people who you will always say yes to, or help out during a legitimate emergency, or give to from the bottom of your heart just because you want to. This is not about those people.
This is about the people who attempt to play on the niceness and vulnerabilities of others by finding a way to manipulate them through their emotions.
I have come up with some things I think will help you:
1) Put yourself first… JUSY SAY NO
Too often we adjust our needs to satisfy others simply to keep the peace. It is vitally important that we learn to consider what we want and need before we open ourselves up to honor someone else’s wants and needs.
I remember when I had my beauty salon and some family and friends would always want a discount, didn’t have enough money, or didn’t respect my time.
I would usually smile and just accept what happened until I became tired. I started feeling manipulated and used, and I realized they were taking my niceness for a weakness.
And just like that I changed. My thought, it was going to be me or them. I put myself first.
I found and used my power. I started saying NO to discounts. If they were short with their money, they could only get what they had enough for, and if they were unreasonably late, I told them “NO, you can’t get your hair done today.” I canceled their appointment.
Besides, if they didn’t care enough about me to honor and respect my business and my money, then I shouldn’t and didn’t honor what they wanted. I had to learn to “Just Say No.”
NO is one of the most important words you can and should learn to say. There is power in it. Learn to put yourself first and use your power. Once you appreciate how powerful it can be in your life, you can filter out the things you will and will not accept.
2) Be firm… no means no
If you think about it, this one pops up a lot between a man and a woman who are having mixed signals as it relates to sex.
Scenario: A man and a woman are in a motel room. They both are into each other and have maybe had a couple of drinks. They start to have the beginning stages of foreplay… kissing and touching.
Then he goes in to go further but she resists in the middle of things getting heated. Suddenly, she changes her mind and wants to leave.
The man is shocked. She pulls back. He pulls her forward. She pulls back and then softly says, “I changed my mind.”
His ego is hurt. His hormones are racing. He grabs her forcefully and is clearly getting agitated because she wants out.
Then in a strong, heavy voice she tells him, “NO, STOP. I don’t want to.”
He is enraged. She hurries to leave the room before things get out of hand.
In this example, even though she went as far as she did, she still had the right to say No. It is her body and choice to change her mind. No explanation needed.
It is important when people ask something of you that you don’t want to do, you must learn to say No with conviction. They have to believe you are serious and mean it.
3) Own your choice and don’t feel guilty
One of the most powerful things we possess as a human being is the ability and right to have choices. That innate ability was given by God. He allows us to choose the things we say and do in our lives.
However, we understand there are consequences for our choices… some positive and some negative.
With that said, as we go about our day working, socializing, and relating to people, we are bombarded with people asking of us all day long.
Can you do this? Can you do that?
As a result, we discover our power to choose daily. Whether we will go to happy hour with our friends. Whether we will lend someone money. Whether we will pick up a co-worker everyday to and from work. It becomes a day full of choices.
In our head, we start to ask ourselves. What if I say no to this person? Will they still like me? Will they talk to me?
For example, I remember I had a long-time customer at my beauty salon test my loyalty and patience.
I had planned on getting off earlier than normal that day because I was really tired and wanted the rest of the evening off. I had planned on leaving at 6 pm. Most of the time I would leave about 9 or 10 pm.
She was my last client for the day and was supposed to be there at 4 pm. I had finished my last client before her at 3:45 so I started cleaning my shop waiting on her.
She showed up at 4:40 pm with no phone call.
My shop was on the second floor, so I would usually buzz my clients in but this time instead, I went downstairs to meet her at the door.
As I opened the door, she moved forward smiling but I blocked her telling her she was too late and I couldn’t do her hair.
Her response, “Oh no Debbie, I have to get my hair done. Please! I have somewhere to go tonight.”
What do you do?
In a case like this, you have to stand your ground.
- Look them in the face
- Don’t smile
- Let them know the problem
- Tell them your decision
- Reiterate you are sorry
- Don’t feel guilty, or sweat your choice and right to say no
My response, “I’m sorry but no I can’t do your hair. You should have been on time knowing you had somewhere to go, and better yet, you were supposed to call me since you were running late. You didn’t respect me or my time.”
I could sense her being upset when she left my doorsteps. Unfortunately, I never saw her again.
But she didn’t value my time, so I had to.
I found peace in my choice because she was always 10 or 15 minutes late, but the last time, she crossed the line.
That incident woke me up and really taught me about the power of “me.” I was at the point where I refused to keep being manipulated by my clients simply because I was super nice. I realized I had to do what was best for me.
4) Don’t give into the pressure
When you are fighting with the decision to say no you feel a lot of pressure. You think about their feelings. You think about your feelings. You think about the consequences, both favorable and unfavorable.
It can be a hard task at times, especially when you are dealing with family and friends.
I remember my brother was living above my beauty salon. I owned a 3-story building. I was letting him stay there for free because I was looking out for him. If he didn’t stay there, he would have been homeless.
On this one particular day, I had been working in my shop from 7 am to 7 pm and was still going strong when he came home for the night. I hadn’t eaten or had a break all day, and I was exhausted and hungry.
I called him downstairs and asked him to go get me something to eat.
Can you believe it? He told me no.
I was shocked, hurt, steaming, and pushed over the edge on the inside but I had to keep my cool around my clients.
Luckily, someone else went to the store for me and I was able to eat… I didn’t get off until 11 pm that night.
What it taught me was that I couldn’t count on him like he was counting on me.
Shortly after that day, I put him out of my building.
How could I be doing the giving, giving, giving, and he be the taker; and then when I need him to come through for me, he denies me. Something was wrong with that picture. Afterall, he is my brother.
As the saying goes, people teach you how to treat them and I was a good student.
Although, I have forgiven him and help him occasionally, he sometimes tries to pressure me to do things for him. However, it is easier for me to say no when I don’t want to do it.
Don’t let people dictate your decisions or make you feel pressured to do something. You know what’s best for you. You know what you want to do and don’t want to do, so honor your power to say no and stick with it.
5) Limit what doesn’t serve you
There will always be times when you will be asked to do something you don’t want to do or go somewhere you don’t want to go.
It is up to you to set the standards for what you will allow to happen. You set standards by taking charge of how you are treated, using your power to make decisions, and honoring your choices.
When you are in charge you can say things without guilt or second-guessing like:
- No, I don’t want to go
- No, I choose not to
- It’s my decision to make
- No, you can’t have it
- No, I don’t want to give you money
- No, you can’t borrow my car
- No, I don’t want to watch your children
- No, you can’t stay here
And the list goes on and on.
Once you understand who you are, what you like and don’t like, and what you want and don’t want; you become stronger and more confident with choosing yourself and what serves you. You will then find it easy to say no.
6) Be respectful with your response
Anytime you are dealing with another person asking something of you, it so important to be respectful. You should always try to be pleasant with your response.
For instance, if a person asks to borrow money, a respectful response would be… I’m sorry but I don’t lend money, or I don’t have any extra to lend. You saying I’m sorry is showing you respect and acknowledge them and what they said.
So, by all means, practice being respectful when you respond to things people ask of you. It doesn’t hurt to be nice.
Benefits of Learning to Say No:
1) You will regain your sense of peace by not feeling guilty when you say no
2) You will eliminate people taking advantage of you
3) You will establish limits for others towards you
4) You will regain your power to say no
5) Saying no helps to maintain self-preservation
I hope my suggestions can help you in some way as they have helped me. I was a complete pushover before I discovered the power of “ME.” Now, I can freely and willfully say with conviction and power… NO!
Thanks for reading!
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