But why do we have such a hard time saying “no”?
Part of it is due to our desire to be liked. Many of us are people-pleasers and we will do just about anything to get people to like us. But once you’ve agreed to do something, that fleeting pleasure is past, and you are now stuck doing something that could possibly take hours, even days of your life to accomplish, and the person you agreed to help doesn’t like you any more than they did when you first met.
Or, you might be afraid of appearing rude. Many of us were taught that when someone senior to us asked us to do something, we were honor-bound to agree. It was very rude to refuse. It could be seen as a sign of rejection.
And the worst reason of all is being afraid of losing out on an experience or an opportunity. People in corporate America find themselves in that position quite often. They might enjoy the team they’re working on, but if they are tapped on the shoulder to go work on another team, or even to move to a different division a state or two away, being afraid to say no can uproot an entire family. All because they were afraid they wouldn’t be chosen for opportunities in the future.
Let’s look at a different way to approach these scenarios. Rather than looking at saying no as rejecting or refusing something, consider instead what you really and truly want to say yes to. We all have our needs, our plans for the future, our own interests and passions. When we agree to do something, it really has to answer the question, “Will it help me or hurt me?” If it will hurt you in some way, you really do need to refuse. If it will help you and you want or need to do it, then by all means, agree to do it.
The next time you find yourself in a position to say yes or no, try this; don’t commit right away. Say, “I don’t think that will work for me right now.” You can always think about it and change your mind, but resist giving reasons for saying no, and then stand firm until you have had time to reflect on a very considered answer.
Once you have done this several times, it will begin to be a healthier habit than simply agreeing to do something to be liked or agreeable. Making this one change in your life will give you more time for the things you really want to do.