Do you hate saying no? Is your desire to please people so aggressive that it actually interferes with your quality of life? It’s difficult to say ‘no,’ when you’re someone who wants to make everyone happy— and helping out friends and family when you want to, is totally fine. It’s when people start taking advantage of you, seeing you as a free taxi, a walking ATM, or their personal therapist, that’s when the problems pop up.
There’s a difference between willingly saying ‘yes’ to something and feeling backed into a corner, so you reluctantly agree because you feel you don’t have any other choice. But actually— and we know, it’s easier said than done— “no” is a complete sentence. In case that’s a little brusque for you, here are three things you should know about saying ‘no’ before you gleefully, guiltlessly, give it a try:
Saying ‘NO’ means standing up for yourself:
Being the person that everyone turns to for things (be it money, favours, rides, or anything else) feels good at first, like you’re needed and important. But if you’re not careful, this dynamic could mean that you’re the person always giving, while your friend/relative/partner is always taking, with no breaks. It’s one of the easiest ways to overextend yourself, and you might feel guilty for saying ‘no’ when you’re expected, yet again, to bend to someone else’s whims. This position will only cause resentment with each passing day. But the goal of saying ‘no’ isn’t to cut you off from the people you love (or to cut them off from you); saying ‘no’ is a simple way that you can stand up for yourself.
When it’s just assumed you’ll be paying for your friend’s lunch every day because they never bring their own cash but inevitably get hungry when they see you eating, you can say something like: “I only brought enough money/food for myself today, sorry.” You know what else works great? “No.” It might be absolutely awkward and uncomfortable the first few times you have to refuse but stick with it: boundaries are important, and eventually, if they’re worth keeping around, your friend/relative/partner will respect you enough to understand that when you say “No”, you mean it.
Saying “NO” doesn’t make you a villain:
It’s shocking, but saying “no,” is actually harming no one in the world. You won’t automatically turn into an infernal, fire-breathing dragon or a warty old hag with a bushel of poisoned apples if you say ‘no’. You’re just a person who’s letting someone else know that, like it or not, you have limits, and you won’t be pushed past them for someone else’s comfort. Sure, there will be some people who throw tantrums or make nasty comments when you finally decide to straighten your spine, but honestly, don’t let their poor behaviour back you into the same old corner.
Honestly, it’s kind of funny watching someone go into a tailspin because they can’t push you around anymore. What can they say that’s at all justifiable? “I can’t believe you won’t drive me around anymore! I never offer some other form of repayment for your kindness, but how dare you be so selfish?” Remember: you’re not refusing to help someone because your petty or vindictive; you’re refusing to be taken advantage of, because you respect yourself.
Saying “NO” helps the other person grow, too
Now, if you’re dealing with someone who habitually uses others, there’s nothing you can do about their unpleasant quirk, except set boundaries and protect yourself as best you can. But if you’ve been the doormat to someone who, in all other respects is a good friend/caring relative/ loving partner, then saying ‘no’ may actually help them step back and reevaluate their own choices and behaviour. Once you make it clear you will no longer enable them to dump their baggage onto you, they’ll have to seek a new solution elsewhere, whether this means they start comping you for money spent or they return the favor of your kindness.
Compromise is key. If you’ve found that suddenly, all of your “friends” are dropping like flies as you refuse to be at their beck and call— they were never genuinely interested in a relationship with you. Saying “no,” can seem like one of the most daunting things to do, especially if you have anxiety or are naturally empathetic to people. But it’s one of the kindest things you can do, for yourself and the people you love, too.