Learning to Say No
It’s time. If you struggled with it as a teen, it’s time in your twenties to get over it. Speak up and speak your mind. If you don’t want something, no matter what the context, say no. It’s one syllable and simple to roll off the tongue. It is also pretty powerful and can free you of the shackles (or expectations) you have put around yourself.
I am not a people pleaser by nature. Of course, I like it when people are pleased, I prefer it, but I have always found a distinct inner conflict when I do not like something and to then go along and condone it. In high school, if I preferred to get a good night’s rest, I would skip the sleepover with my friends and go home later that night instead. In college, I didn’t let FOMO often get in the way of things I found to be more important like editing my journalism packages or going to an audition. Now, I still don’t put the pressure on myself to be a part of every party or event and I professionally am comfortable speaking up when I don’t quite understand something. I never really had problems with peer pressure and am comfortable not accepting every invitation to things. In life, you have to accept that you just can’t do it all and that sometimes, for you own well-being, it is okay to put yourself first and do what you need to do to feel sane and happy.
Now, trust me. I have plenty of shortcomings but saying no has never been one of them. I’m only explaining all of this to be truthful about what happens when you say no from experience. You can sometimes get teased, feel guilty or even feel a little dumb or silly but all of that is fleeting. Most importantly, you feel strong, confident and self-assured and those are more important for your personal growth. When you are being honest with what you want, you root for yourself. You become your own cheerleader and I think it’s the beginning of becoming your own best friend which is what I am convinced is the key to becoming those amazing, comfortable-in-your-own-skin, Meryl Streep-like women.
There is also a fine line here though. It’s a balancing act. Sometimes we must do things for the people we love like watch sports games or go to events that we are less than excited about because it makes our significant other happy. Sometimes you have to just say “yes” and pick that friend up from the airport. Sometimes, cleaning the house, taking out the garbage, doing the dishes, babysitting or anything that seems more chore-like, is good to suck up and do because when you love someone, you do those things to help them out.
However, as I have entered the ladder part of this decade, friends have started getting married, having babies, throwing bachelor/bachelorette parties and wedding showers. The events are endless, sometimes not local and pretty pricey. It is important to be there for people during these special times in their life but it is also okay in some scenarios (and you will know better than anyone which these are) to draw a line. Again, you can’t do everything. This among all the other circumstances we must learn to say no in life have inspired me to share some advice to follow when deciding to say no and dealing with what comes next.
Be gracious and grateful
Don’t be defensive. Say your piece, express your gratitude, and if appropriate, give your reasoning but keep it brief. Don’ t apologize either if it is not called for.
Whatever verbal aftermath you get from someone, ignore or brush off lightly. If it’s a peer pressure circumstance, it speaks more for that person than it does you so there is really no need for you to try to explain yourself or feel foolish. You are simply setting boundaries.
Keep it light
Dont get caught up in any drama that can ensue after a no is said. Keep it light and keep conversation flowing. Stay away fom the gossip. Go on your merry way and act like all is well.
Accept that not everyone will be happy with your decision and it’s fine. You can’t make everyone happy all the time. You just have to do what you think is right and best for yourself sometimes and that does not you a bad person. Accept that not every situation is perfect and that’s okay. It’s just life.
You may also need to accept that when you say no, people might say things behind your back. This is human nature and it does not make these people bad people. It just sort of is what it is. Accept that.
Situations usually escalate when people don’t feel heard. Always hear a person out and be patient. It is the mature way to handle something and to ensure that a relationship or friendship isn’t fractured.
Odds are your greatest fear of offending someone or causing conflict will be far less damaging than you think. Usually when someone is gracious while being confident and firm, people don’t have a lot to retort back with. It’s final and if you add a smile to that, then, it’s hard to play the angry/rude card back at them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: JENNA WHITECAR
I work in marketing for a technology company in San Francisco. I earned my degree in Broadcast Journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University where I graduated in three years with honors. With a passion for art, travel, food, fitness, fashion, and of course, writing, I started my lifestyle blog, Jenna Rose Colored Glasses, where I aim to create a creative, fun, relatable space for women to get inspired and share ideas. I am also a freelance content writer for various businesses and am working on a novel.