I used to have a very, very bad habit: when anyone would ask me something, I would always say: “yes”. Invitations, projects, favors, … Yes, yes and yes. So I would end up spending my time going to parties I didn’t really want to go to, driving people to the airport, hanging out with the boring classmates, finishing a group project on my own, etc.
I used to ask myself every time: How the hell did I end up spending my day doing THIS, instead of what I really want to do?
And I want to take a minute here to insist on how DRAMATIC this is. Because it’s not just about the bother of doing things we don’t really want to do. No, what is dramatic is that it keeps us from doing what we really should be doing. Write that novel, paint that painting, start this new business, learn that skill, spend time with our loved ones.
So why do we keep doing this over and over again?
We tend to over-commit because when asked something, our automatic response is “yes”.
Whether it’s because we are afraid of disappointing or upsetting others, of not being loved, because we want to be helpful and nice, or because we misevaluate the time and energy it will actually take, one common issue:
We don’t give ourselves room to use discernment.
We jump into the yes, thinking it’s easier to just say yes when the person is in front of us, and we can always back off after. BIG MISTAKE. It is not easier. And it doesn’t make others love us more or being less disappointed. And it certainly is not more helpful and nice.
I stumbled upon a quote recently (yes, it was on a t-shirt, so what?):
Integrity is doing what you said you would do, even after you stopped feeling like doing it.
But how do we do that? How do we make sure that we can stop our yes-compulsion, use our discernement and say yes only to the things we will want to do even when we stopped feeling like doing it?
The magic words: “let me get back to you”.
It is indeed difficult to say no right on the spot, or when we do we are clumsy about it and may hurt others feelings, which makes it even more difficult to say no the next time. The easiest way is to give yourself some space to 1. make sure you really want to do it and 2. think about the best way to express your no, in a tactful yet authentic way.
For that, we can change our default answer from “yes” to “ let me get back to you”.
If your disease is well established and far spread out, you might even want to consider switching to “no” as a default answer for a while. You know, massive dose of antibiotics.
A little perspective shift if you still feel guilty about it: saying yes when you mean no is not only a disservice to you, it is one to the other person as well. No one wants you to say yes to a project if you won’t have the time to finish it properly and in time. No one wants to hang out with you if you do it out of obligation. No one wants a victim to be part of their team/life/project. And that’s what happens when you say yes all the time. You give away your power and your authenticity.
I once asked a man to dance and he accepted, only to tell me at the end of the night that he didn’t want to dance but didn’t know how to tell me no, so he just did it… That offended me way more than if he had declined! Don’t be that person! You’re not doing anyone a service.
Saying no is not rejecting the other, it’s just saying no. And actually, saying no when you really mean no can be the most loving thing to do, for yourself and for the other.
Do you have trouble saying no? What do you find helpful to help you say no when you mean it? Share your experience in the comment section below and let us know how the magic words work for you!
Photos by Amelie Hubert