Are you naturally hardwired to say yes to others as a reflex when asked to do something? It’s been a struggle, but I am much better about how I answer these days.
Recently a friend shared she’d been invited to a party. She didn’t want to go, but had said yes anyway. I asked her why she just didn’t say no. An honest, vulnerable conversation between friends followed. She told me she didn’t want hurt the person’s feelings. This is a big one for women. But…this was a large party with several dozen people, so she probably wouldn’t be missed anyway. (It wasn’t a milestone birthday or special celebration, that’s different. ) She didn’t feel she had a ‘quick enough excuse ready” to say no, but she didn’t want to lie either. We both agreed telling the truth can be tough and may not be well received. The honest answer probably would be, “No, I’m really not interested in being in a large group of people I barely know trying to find things to talk about” or “Gee, I’d rather work on my genealogy chart which I love doing”. That would be tough to say for most of us I think.
Is there a better way?
Why I Say Yes
I say “yes” to others for many reasons. In the moment the offer sounds fun. I love to expand my life and try new experiences. I’m a people-pleaser. It’s easier to simply avoid conflict. Many yeses have opened doors to new places, life-changing experiences and fascinating people. I can be impulsive and don’t think things through sometimes. FOMO (Fear of missing out!). Why do you you say yes?
The Problem with Saying Yes Instead of No
I am referring to the yes when we are asked to do something and we really don’t want to do it.
When we say yes to things we’re lukewarm about or don’t want to do, we fill a space in our life and we are no longer available for something we would really enjoy or is more nourishing to our life and our spirit. This can be a quiet, soul-soothing and relaxing time at home.
We end up doing things we don’t really enjoy or realize it wasn’t worth the time or energy. Most of us have had the experience of spending more money than you should have, eating or drinking more that you intended, or feeling tired after being out too late.
Most important, we are not doing other things better aligned with what we care about and our values.
The Wrong Yes is Like Fast Food
Over time, too many of these “yeses” erode the quality in our life. We’re only half-present, and then we become critical of ourselves for being in these situations wasting our precious time. Like fast-food, occasionally isn’t bad. But those little yeses can be as ubiquitous as drive-through restaurants, quick and not nourishing, leaving us feeling empty. Wouldn’t you rather say yes to dining on a lovely meal (either at home or going out), where the ambience, flavors and textures of the meal create a more fulfilling experience?
Although often easier to say yes, I had to re-train myself to say no consciously and frequently. It’s become my newest super-power. I recognize I don’t have unlimited time, energy or resources to do it all.
A Gentle Honest No
How about being honest to a point?
“No, thanks for inviting me, but I can’t make it.” Simple, honest and no excuse needed. It’s enough.
You can follow-up with a bit more, such as “I’m sure it will be lovely and loads of fun”, and then change the subject. Enough interest but don’t dwell on it.
If you’re not that quick with a response, say simply you need to check your calendar, with your husband/wife/partner, or “check on something tentatively planned”. You’ve bought some time to think about your answer.
Then you need to get back to the person via email or text very soon with a thanks, but no thanks response.
Simple. Honest. Done!
If you want to live your best life and do what you desire, you will need to be very diligent with your time.
The power to say no is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves. It is the gift of life–our life and it opens up space to say YES.