According to BBC Worklife, people comply with requests from others because they fear disagreement. As a social species, we’re afraid to damage relationships by saying no. We genuinely want to help others and be easy-going, but we confuse refusal with rudeness and selfishness – while equating acceptance with kindness and empathy. We want to avoid conflicts, be liked, and keep the door open for future opportunities. However, by doing that we put ourselves at a disadvantage ignoring our own needs and failing to be authentic.
In this article, we’ll discuss why we should say “no” more often, and how to master the art of a gracious refusal:
To save your resources
A study by UCLouvain found that parents in wealthy, individualistic Western countries often suffered from parental burnout and stress. Researchers pointed out how individualistic countries tend to foster a cult of performance and perfectionism,. This mindset often extends outside of parenting, and we run ourselves ragged pursuing perfection in all aspects of life. Consequently we forget our limits.
Resources like time, energy, attention, and motivation should be spent wisely. You won’t do your best at anything if you’re sick or emotionally spent, so saying yes to every request generally won’t benefit you or others. Moreover, when you give more, people continue to expect more — leading to a vicious cycle of distress and less-than-optimal performance. Instead, focus on staying healthy and addressing your primary responsibilities well. Honour your needs, and put yourself first.
To wait for something you really want to do
Maybe when you get a request from someone, you do have the resources to accomplish it. However, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Ask yourself: Do I want to do this task at all? In Shonda Rhimes’s “Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person”, the award-winning creator and producer was challenged by her sister to say YES to the unexpected invitations that came her way for a year.. And it may be a good habit to try if you’re not entirely sure how you feel about a project, or if you feel you’re not participating in the world around you as much as you’d like to.
However, it’s still best not to force yourself to do something you don’t have time for, you’ll hate, or which won’t align with your own goals. When you offer yourself up as a resource for others, you won’t be able to focus on your own work, loved ones or passion projects to the same degree. This doesn’t mean you should stop helping others, of course. Rather, you should be more selective about what you choose to do. Listen to your intuition. If someone offers you an opportunity that sparks your genuine interest or speaks to you in some way, then that’s something to say yes to. Otherwise, get used to the idea that saying no is just fine.
To protect your relationships
Let’s go back to the original problem. We don’t want to say no because we want to foster good relationships. However, saying yes all the time can actually undermine those relationships in the long run. We start to feel apprehensive and resentful towards people who made requests of us, even though we’ve made it seem acceptable to do so. Nedra Glover Tawwab, author of “Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself”, notes that feeling upset, frustrated, anxious, or confused about a request is a sign you need to have healthier boundaries with others.
Being clear and firm about what you will and won’t do can help maintain your relationships. Politely rejecting someone’s request may make them unhappy temporarily, but they’ll respect you more in the long run than if a run-down, stressed or grumpy version of you had taken on the task. You also don’t need to explain your reasoning. Instead, clarify what you’re willing to do or offer a time frame that works for you. You can also provide them with alternatives and suggestions. This will allow you to be both generous and authentic.
In our article titled “New Year, New You?”, we discussed how permissions can be a topic to focus on in 2022. Instead of restricting yourself, consider instead what you’re free to decide and say no to.
For extra help in expanding your realm of personal choices, call me at CLD today.
Written by Ava Stacie Myrtle, edited by Cary Langer-Donohoe
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