Saying “yes” when you want to say “no” is more than a frustrating quirk, it’s a disease. The disease to please. And it causes all kinds of problems from overbooked schedules to personal burnout. When it happens, you do yourself and the person making the request a serious disservice.
But how does a person actually say the word “no” without guilt or shame?
Here are a few examples of how to do the right thing for you and for the person who asks you to do what you don’t want to do.
This is a way of pre-deciding the outcome of likely pressure situations. For example, make it a personal policy not to lend money. Then, when a friend in need asks for a significant loan you can kindly respond,
“I’m sorry but as a rule, I don’t lend money to friends or family.”
By responding this way you’ve removed the personal from the equation by letting them know, this is a general principle – I don’t do it for anyone.
"Saying 'yes' when you want to say 'no' is more than a frustrating quirk, it’s a disease. The disease to please."
When you feel pressured, the answer should be no.
Pressure, whether through persistence, guilt or urgency means the other person is not showing you the respect you deserve. Any time someone tries to apply pressure you need to see it as a “red flag” signal that you want no part in what they are asking you to do.
Example: You are asked to coordinate the bake sale for your child’s class, again. After a gentle but clear “no” the asker persists, “Come on, you know no one can pull it off like you, and besides if you don’t we’ll have a lot of disappointed kids on your hands.”
This is where you kindly respond,
"I know it’s disappointing, but I've decided not to volunteer this year, because I fear I'll end up feeling resentful. Is there any way to get some of the other parents to step up?"
What you’ve done is address the problem of one person doing all the work while sidestepping this person’s not so subtle manipulation. You’ve done your share in the past so there’s no need for guilt.
When you say no, there’s no need to be upset. Just take a breath, compose yourself and remain calm.
Say no lovingly. Say no gently. Say no respectfully. But say no.
Often the real damage in saying “no” comes from the way it is said. Emotional makes things personal. Most of the time if you can remove emotion from the equation the other person won’t perceive it as a personal affront.
Example: It’s been a tough day. Nothing has gone right. On top of it all you’re feeling pressured because you’re planning for your daughter’s wedding. At the last minute, your third cousin asks to bring her boyfriend of the month to the $100 a plate reception. This nearly sends you over the edge, but that’s when you take a breath and respond,
"We've already had to make so many tough decisions to get the guest list down to size. We really can't squeeze in or afford another guest. But I would love to have you two over for coffee sometime so I can meet him."
You didn’t blow up. You didn’t say anything about how she always does thing like this. You simply lifted the veil on some of the behind the scenes pressure you are facing. Who knows, she might even get a clue about how inappropriate her request is.
"Emotional makes things personal."
Say “NO” clearly and firmly.
Since it’s uncomfortable to say no, sometimes we kind of say “no”. By doing this, or by offering a “maybe” you are creating room for the other person to hear “yes”. And a little room is all some people need to expect that a yes in on the near horizon. Try not to say things like:
“Well, I’m kind of busy. Can you try to find someone else.”
“I’m not very good at that kind of thing.”
Saying anything less than no leaves room for negotiation where your old people pleasing habits can take over or you’ll find yourself saying “yes” when you want to say something else.
Of course, there are hundreds of other scenarios. Other situations where people will try to get you to do things you don’t want to do, and then they’ll try to make you feel guilty for not wanting to do it. You, however, can be stronger than that. You can learn to say “NO” without guilt or shame.