In a ‘yes’ world, learn to say ‘no’

By Jessica Hubble | Multimedia Journalist

As a people-pleaser, it is second nature to say yes. It is so easy I eventually forget what I’ve said yes to and the next thing I know, I’m buried up to my eyeballs in things to do.

Why is it so hard to say no? I want to please everyone, I want everyone to like me and I feel like if I say no I’ll be letting someone down. The reality is, not everyone will like me, and that’s OK. The other reality is that I need to take care of myself before I try and help others. Saying no won’t let them down and it doesn’t keep me from being a team player. It comes down to prioritizing and doing what fits in my set of values and goals.

A 2012 study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that saying “I can’t” or “I don’t” instead of no is easier for people. The researchers also found it helpful to come up with go-to phrases to tell people or to rehearse what you want to say in your head.

We live in a “yes” world and culture. As a society, we are afraid if we say no, then we will be missing out on something. In reality, we are just going to burn ourselves out and stress ourselves out, which can lead to a slew of other problems such as physical illness or psychological issues. In a 1987 study by the University of Indiana, it was found that stress can cause gastrointestinal problems, cold and sinus infections, headaches and migraines, high blood pressure and increased anxiety.

When I learned to start telling people no, I found myself excelling in other things and with my relationships. I have more time to dedicate to what mattered to me: school, work and family. I’m no longer bogged down by other tasks for other people that were not helping me toward my goals. No, that is not selfish of me. To make myself accessible to others I have to be in good health and have time for what they’re asking me to do. Stress is a major cause of illness. By saying no to tasks or events that I don’t need to do or want to do, I can make time for myself, my priorities and people I want to spend time with.

I have also found that the more you say yes, the more people are going to ask of you. There has to be a point where you say no for the sake of your own sanity and workload. People should respect your boundaries and other time commitments.

Try saying no every once in a while and you might be surprised at the result.