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Why Saying "No" is an Essential Life Skill
Why Saying "No" is an Essential Life Skill
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Money Psychology

Why Saying "No" is an Essential Life Skill

Imou Eparis
August 23, 2023

Have you ever agreed to buy or pay for something you didn’t want to or could have done without but for some reason you ended up doing so anyways? 

One main reason could be that you didn’t want to be rude or because you felt pressured to do so. Saying "yes" is easy but saying "no" takes courage. 

Many people struggle with saying "no", especially in situations that matter. 

Why Do We Say "Yes"?

How often do you find yourself in situations where you want to say "no" but end up saying "yes"? Here are some reasons why you would say "yes" when deep down you know you wanted to say "no". 

  • To avoid confrontation - A few people enjoy confrontation. Saying "yes" helps you avoid uncomfortable arguments and as a result your default may become agreeing with others. For example, you know your mother will be upset with you because you said "no" to your brother, so to prevent this unpleasant experience, you decide to just comply.
  • To be more likeable - You may fear that saying "no" would result in losing a friend and you don’t want to appear self-fish, rude or self-centred. Thus we keep saying "yes" because we don’t want to lose friends or simply for approval.
  • Compulsivity - Sometimes people have a compulsive tendency to "overdo it" and say "yes" to every opportunity. 
  • Fear of missing out - We are social beings and because of this, it might be difficult to turn down opportunities to try something new. We are afraid of saying "no" and missing out on something that others might deem important.

Other reasons we frequently find ourselves giving in to demands are for example, making an effort to gain favour, fear of being viewed as someone who isn’t a team player, or from fear of being fired if we said "no" to our employers.

Benefits of Saying "No" 

The benefits of saying "no" in your work and personal life include:  

  • It allows you to set boundaries - You might be allowing people to take advantage of you because you just can’t say "no". Saying "no" helps you set healthy boundaries in your relationships and also allows you to be more committed and thoughtful to the things you said "yes" to.
    If you say "yes" to everything and don’t set boundaries, you will likely feel stressed, burnt out, and overwhelmed. Having boundaries protects your time, energy and peace of mind. 

Before saying "yes", ask yourself these questions;

  • Do I truly want to do this?  
  • Why is this ""yes"" so important to me? 
  • Does it excite me? 
  • Do I hope this will get this person to like me? (or any other external desires.)
  • If the "yes" is based on an external desire, what am I giving up in order to make this "yes" happen?  
  • Think of the phrase, “Every "yes" is a "no" to something else,” when making your decision. Will saying "yes" prevent me from focusing on something that’s more important? 
  • Will saying "yes" make me even more tired or burnt out? 
    These questions will give you the framework for when it’s finally time to say "no".
  • It saves you time and money - Saying "no" is difficult, especially if you are saying "no" to your boss or loved ones. Saying financial "nos" to your loved ones whenever necessary can save you from draining your finances especially if you are living on a tight budget. 

    On the other hand, if you accept every task that comes your way at your workplace you run the risk of wasting not just your time but the time and money of your company.

    This is not to suggest you say "no" to a request made by your employer by sending an email that reads, “"nope, can’t do it!” Knowing how to say "no" at work when you have proper reasons is a good professional skill to have. 

    For instance, one of the common situations you would encounter as an employee that would require you to say "no" to your supervisor is when you are given a task that you simply don’t have the time to properly attend to. Explaining your current workload and priorities may help your manager understand your refusal.

Rejecting requests gives you the freedom to spend your time as you see fit and concentrate on the tasks that are truly crucial for achieving the goals you have set. It can also lead you to new opportunities that wouldn’t have been possible if you said "yes".

  • Boosts your confidence - Saying "no" might give you a confidence boost and give you the sense of having control over your life.
  • Important for your mental well-being - Saying "no" doesn’t make you a villain. In fact, it might give you peace of mind. It can create more mental health stability by helping with self-care and building your self-esteem. 

    Having time to yourself is important. This doesn’t mean you have to spend that time doing nothing. You could try working on a skill or a hobby.

    By devoting time for yourself that you would have otherwise spent occupied, you have the chance to significantly improve your well-being.
  • Prevents burnout - Spreading yourself too thin by saying "yes" to everything might result in you experiencing burnout. Characteristics of burnout include emotional exhaustion, stress and reduced productivity.

    Burnout has been linked to various health problems including depression, heart disease and anxiety. In addition to having a negative impact on individuals' physical and mental health, burnout can also have serious negative effects in the workplace.

    Increased healthcare costs, reduced productivity and high turnover rates are some of the financial implications of burnout in a business.

    This might also paint a bad picture for your business making it difficult to attract and maintain top talent.  As a business owner, it is important to create an environment that prioritises employee well-being and encourages healthy boundaries.

    This might improve employee satisfaction, increase productivity, and foster a more robust corporate culture.

Struggling to say "no"? Here are a few tips to help

  • Practice - in order to learn how to say "no", you have to practise saying it. After all, practice makes perfect. Saying "no" as often as possible is a fantastic way to get comfortable and better at saying "no".

    In some instances, repeating the word is the only way to get the message through extremely persistent people. Saying ""no"" seems awkward at first, and we only get better with continued practice. It's like any other interpersonal skill.
  • Slow down - You might be filled with dread by the thought of saying "no''. Feelings of anxiety generated by the possibility of saying "no" can escalate into a full-blown panic response, an emotional state in which we have a diminished capacity to process information and consider options.

    If you are put on the spot and asked to help with something that you don’t have the capacity for, but you cannot bear to turn someone down, then buy yourself some more time.

    By slowing down an interaction or decision-making process, we can catch up and choose what is best for us rather than what will make us feel less anxious at the time.
  • Provide alternatives - Sometimes offering another way to deal with something can help you avoid saying "yes". This act still demonstrates your commitment to your loved ones or workplace while still setting boundaries.

Saying "no" improves your communication because you are communicating openly and honestly about why you can’t do a particular thing. Saying "no" could also lead you to new opportunities that wouldn’t have been possible if you said "yes".  

If you said "no" often, what would you be saying "yes" to? More time with your kids? You could finally kick start that passion project or better take care of yourself and your mental health.

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Imou is a content writer who has worked in the digital space for a while now. This has exposed her to a variety of interesting topics that have piqued her interest and pushed her to experiment with her writing. Apart from articles, Imou writes poetry and fiction. You can connect with her on LinkedIn here.

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