As much as we may deny it, humans are social animals who thrive on reciprocity, says the New York Times.
The word ‘no’ often feels like a confrontation that threatens a potential bond. But when we hand out an easy yes instead of a difficult no, we tend to over commit our time, energy and finances which ends up in unhappiness.
The ability to communicate ‘no’ reflects that you are in the driver’s seat of your own life. It gives you a sense of empowerment.
One technique is the refusal strategy. A study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that saying ‘I don’t’ as opposed to ‘I can’t’ allowed participants to extract themselves from unwanted commitments.
While ‘I can’t’ sounds like an excuse that’s up for debate, ‘I don’t’ implies you’ve put down your foot and established certain rules for yourself, suggesting conviction and stability.
There are a few ways you can get more comfortable with saying no.
First, practice being more aggressive when the stakes are low. For example, when a cashier asks you to sign up for a store credit card you don’t want, try saying ‘I don’t use store credit cards’ instead of a passive ‘Not today, but thank you,’ which implies your decision is up for debate.
It’s a lot easier to be assertive with a stranger selling you something than it is when, say, your pleading co-worker asks for a ride to the airport. Get comfortable with your assertiveness when it’s easy so you’ll be prepared when there’s more pressure.
Second, it’s easier to say no when you know exactly how to say it, so come up with a few anchor phrases for different situations. ‘No, I don’t buy from solicitors’ for door-to-door salespeople, for example. ‘No, I don’t go out during the week’ for co-workers who want to go on a drinking binge on a Wednesday night.
When you have these phrases ready, you don’t have to waste time wavering over an excuse. And you start to develop a reflexive behaviour of saying no.
Still, sometimes we’re afraid to say no because we fear missing out. While wanting to take on new opportunities and adventures, we say yes to everything, but all of those yeses lead to burnout.
It helps to understand your own long-term goals first. This way, you can say yes to opportunities that most reflect your values. Then try to build free time in your schedule so there’s room for new, interesting opportunities you might otherwise overlook.
Some commitments and obligations are difficult to reject. You can’t exactly tell your boss: Sorry, I don’t work past 5pm. But there are ways to ease into the refusal. If your boss wants to pile on extra work, you might suggest you’re not the best choice for that task because your plate is already full and you don’t want to sacrifice quality.
If you’re worried that your ‘no’ might seem threatening, don’t be. Research found that our perceptions of our own assertiveness are often unreliable. In mock negotiations, people who thought they were adequately assertive or even over-assertive were seen by others as under-assertive.
Each person’s mileage is going to vary. But if you feel over-committed, no is a small word that can remind you how much control you have over your destiny.
You have obligations, but within the limits of your control.
For most of us, that means living a happier and less stressful life, which is easier to do from the driver’s seat.
Check out the original article by The New York Times.
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