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Learning To Say NO Assertively Is An Especially Essential Skill For Women

Posted: June 2, 2021

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Do you have problems in saying an assertive ‘No’? Then learning to say no is what you must do, either at work or in personal life.

Do you have difficulty in saying ‘NO’? Do you find that you are often taking on more than you can actually handle?

And now you are stuck with your commitments plus the additional work of someone else that you unwittingly took on and told them that, ‘OK I’ll do it for you’.

Are you struggling with these (what I call as excuses), instead of learning to say no?

  • How can I say no? What if he feels bad?
  • I cannot hurt my boss. He is my superior.
  • My children really need me.
  • I have done it so long for my spouse, now it feels like a habit.

Are all these thoughts floating in your head right now, as you are struggling to handle the additional work? Then learning to say know is what you need, and this blog is for you.

What happens when we say ‘Yes’, but in our heads it would rather be a ‘No’

Often we know that we cannot take on other’s work or we do not want to take on other’s work. It could be due to lack of time or adding to the already existing stress you have in hand or the inability to handle someone’s mess.

Besides it also makes us look weak and insignificant, and we are unwittingly giving the power to the others. We know this at the back of our minds. Yet we take on as we do not know how to say an assertive ‘NO’. It is like self- sabotage. It makes us resentful and more stressed.

So why do you repeat this pattern?

Is it fear? Do we want to avoid confrontation? Or do we want to buy temporary peace? Does it help you in the long run? Or did it pull down your confidence level instead? These are valid points to consider.

Take this example. Your colleague wants you to finish his work as he has ‘something else’ important that came up. And of course you oblige. Now you notice that his ‘something important’ is coming up more often, but you still cannot say no. Soon it has become a habit which you cannot now get out of. You may think what if he feels bad, or you think it is OK as it’s just 10 more minutes of my time and let me do it one last time, and then another and another and it goes on.

You are doing yourself a disservice by not learning to say NO.

Reasons for saying ‘Yes’ when you want to say ‘No’

Saying yes when you mean no to buy peace for now. It is like sweeping the dirt under the carpet. It will surely come one day to bite you, and in a big way.

Saying yes to a request when you actually do not want to is also a cultural thing. Saying no can be considered as rude in many cultures. Or sometimes we perceive saying NO as a weakness. Sometimes the person who is asking, is a good friend, and you don’t want to let them down. And some people are just pleasers by nature and like to say yes all the time, even if they cannot handle it.

These are small things that add up, and it can become a pattern in your life. An inability to say no to people in general. And it comes with the cost. You might start complaining and whining, and believe me, at that time, nobody wants to listen to you and then you start becoming resentful. Guess who’s to blame now?

What went wrong here

Were you not trying to be kind and accommodating? Then why is this happening?

Think again. When you start accommodating at your cost, it is at the cost of your time, at the cost of your efficiency. You are not helping the other person nor are you helping yourself. In fact you’re getting into this circle of complaining, of self pity, of being resentful. Eventually it takes a toll on your confidence level, on your ability to be productive.

Learning to say no and dealing better with this

How can you tell your friend, your colleague ‘No’ when they make a request, and you really don’t want to do it or don’t have the time for it, and yet you don’t want to sound rude, and definitely don’t want them to feel bad about it?

So here is one thing you can think about the next time somebody comes and ask you for a favour and you really want to say ‘No’. Instead of just saying NO in their face, try changing the language in which you convey it to them, perhaps. You can be polite and say, “Can I get back to you” or “I really wish I could help you, but you know what, I really have this bit of work that needs my attention, so sorry.” This can help you gracefully navigate your way out. That is one way, where you are at least not being rude.

Is your superior palming off their work on you?

There may be times where it is your superior who is making a ‘request’. A way to handle this is to do it this time, but choose a better time when the person is more relaxed and just explain your pressure to them. Maybe they will understand.

Eventually people will get it that you are no more a soft target. I think speaking up for yourself earns more respect than just doing favours and extra work for others which can appear as a sign of weakness.

Learning to say NO; standing up for yourself will give you more power

When it comes to family, sometimes you just have to say yes whether you like it or not, and it’s ok. But at some point, you have to learn to draw your boundaries.

What does ‘draw your boundary’ mean? It means you define in your head that this is the extent to which you can stretch yourself and help people, and this is the point where you do not want to, and you say a ‘NO’ in an assertive and nice way. You will do this because it’s going to decrease family members dumping their issues and work on you, and will also help you feel more confident and stronger. You do not want to be taken for granted, or overwork and stress yourself so much that finally you have no energy left for yourself or for others in this bargain.

First published here.

Image source: a still from the film Masaan

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Ms. Geeta Ramakrishnan, Author of #1 Amazon Best Seller book ‘The Game of Change’ Intimidated

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