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I get requests like this all the time and perhaps you do too. They go something like this, “Hey Justin what are you doing tomorrow? Would you be able to help us during our move tomorrow morning?”
Whether it’s helping somebody move into a new house or helping somebody grocery shop, or even attending a wedding, there are so many demands on our time these days. I know there are in my life and I’m sure you can relate.
If we said yes to everybody we’d have no time left for ourselves.
Unfortunately our culture is really less than excellent at communicating (thanks to our friends at AT&T & Motorola). Also we’re taught growing up to be giving of ourselves and our time to the extent that I believe is not healthy.
The issue isn’t that we don’t want to help people, it’s knowing when to say no and how to go about it tactfully so we don’t cause ourselves unnecessary stress.
Like I said before if we say yes to everything and everyone, our lives will be busier and more stressful than they need to be. There will always be friends who are moving, there will always be more meetings to attend, there will always be more gatherings to go to and groups to join. People will always need you so don’t think that if you say no one time, you’re going to disappoint everyone.
Part of reclaiming your life and taking ownership of your time is creating boundaries. Saying no to somebody creates within you a level of self respect and self care. It tells people that they can’t always ask you to do things and expect you to be there.
The more often you say yes, the more often people are not only going to ask you to be there but expect you to be there. This creates a vicious cycle where expectations rise and stress along with it. When you learn to say no, it’s incredibly self empowering.
When we say no we create stories in our heads about what the other persons reaction will be. Will they be upset? Will they be mad that they sent me a wedding invitation and I declined? Will they think we don’t want to be friends any more? Will they think that I’m ungrateful or not a good friend because they attended the very same thing I’m saying no to?
Make a point to say no but also don’t beat yourself up over it. Don’t say no and then go over all the different scenarios that cause you further stress and anxiety about the decision you made. Saying no is empowering but only if you do it with grace and don’t beat yourself up about it.
Saying yes all the time on the other hand not only creates stress but it also creates a situation where you beat yourself up for not standing up for yourself and speaking your truth. Don’t let that happen to you.
It’s the same thing with saying no. When you lower the expectations others have of you, you lower the related stress in your life.
Just remember, if you spend your life doing everything for everybody, you spend your life.
If the very thought of doing something for somebody stresses you out, it might be time to tell them no. If you’ve helped this person multiple times in the past you also have a little more leeway for telling them no. Also if they’ve given you very little notice, that’s also a good reason to say no.
One powerful way to say no is to explain to them the actual reason you’re saying no. Just say that you’re starting to take care of your health now and need to set some boundaries. Let them know that you only have one day off a week and you really want to have some alone time or whatever it is. Honesty is always the best policy because it lets them know the real reasons you are declining their offer.
Here’s a powerful phrase or response you can give people when they ask you to do something you’re not comfortable doing.
Thank you for asking! While I will be unable to attend XYZ I wish you the best and hope XYZ goes well. Thanks for thinking of me!
Another tip you can do is to tell people you need to think about it or sleep on it. This will condition people to know that this is your typical response. This will allow you to fully ruminate on the possibility and then get back to the person in the morning with a yes or a no.
As you know creating boundaries with people is incredibly challenging as well as extremely necessary if you want to gain control over your health and your life. Sometimes you’re just going to piss some people off. But eventually they’ll get over it. And if they want to keep being your friend, they’ll forgive you too. The upside is that the more you say no to people the less they’ll ask you for favors in the future.
I’m not saying we should avoid helping people when they’re in need. I’m saying that we need to have limits and set boundaries in our lives and it’s incredibly important that other people understand what those boundaries are.
Next time you say no to somebody you’re saying yes to yourself.
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