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How to learn to say no when you don’t want to do something

Our culture says that “no” is negative and “yes” is positive. That is why it is very difficult for us to say no when we need to, resulting in lots of disappointment and disgruntlement later on.

“Yes” is easier to say. You don’t antagonize people, you earn smiles and you get to be a nice person. So whether it comes to proofreading your colleague’s 50-page document, running errands for everybody, babysitting others’ kids are simply lending money to people who have no intention of returning it, “no” is the last word you want to utter simply because you want to avoid the associated unpleasantness.

We also avoid saying no because we don’t want to be rude, we are afraid of losing friends and well-wishers, we want to be liked most of the time, we want to avoid a conflict if we can (even at the cost of having to walk the extra mile), we don’t want it to cost us our relationship (especially when it is just developing), and there might be many more reasons.

But you know what? Saying no is not as difficult as you think, according to this blog post. In fact, your life will be much easier once you learn how to say no and people will respect you for that. Here are a few things you can do:

Set your boundaries

You, and people around you, must clearly know what you can do and what you cannot do. Once you have set boundaries for yourself you don’t even have to face difficult situations in which you have to say “no”. If your colleague already knows that you have other commitments and at the most you can proof read 1-5 pages, she will not, in her right mind, ask you to stretch your limits and in the process, do more harm than good.

Clearly setting boundaries will also prevent you from becoming a “no-man” (or woman). People will know where you will say yes and where you will say no.

Decide what are your priorities and then take them seriously

Once you have recognized your priorities and started taking them seriously it will be easier for you to say “no” to unimportant and insignificant undertakings. Remember that if your colleague is asking you to proof read her 50-page document rather than she herself doing it means that she would rather spend her time doing something much more relevant. It means proofreading the document isn’t as important for her as doing that other thing. Applying the similar logic why should it become your topmost priority?

Additionally when you start taking your priorities seriously you can say “no” with greater conviction without developing feelings of remorse later on. You know what you’re doing is right.

You can help despite saying “no”

Saying no doesn’t mean turning a blind eye to another’s problems. It’s just that you think that your time will be better spent on doing something else. So if you know someone or some source that can handle the situation better for that person you should mention it to him or her.