It’s Okay To Say No To People

Jeffrey Wegrzyn

Your Time Is Sacred


A pile of documents lands on Eva’s desk while she’s busy answering a backlog of emails. Hours ago, she was lamenting to a colleague how the pressure at work is mounting up.

“I can’t keep this up,” she thinks to herself. “Something has to give or I’m out of here.”

“Why do I have more work than I can handle?”
she wonders, slipping between daydreaming and the reams of stacked documents that drown out her field of vision.

“Why can’t I say no?”

“Because you want others to like you,” a familiar voice echoes back.

Eva’s predicament is one we identify with because it happens to us often.

The common thread in this narrative is knowing when to say ‘no’ instead of giving in to others’ demands.

A life without complications arises when you say no to distractions. Many struggle to say no because of an inherent need to be liked. However, this comes at a risk of being taken advantage of.

“The more we say no to demanding people, the more life opens up to pursue our passions and happiness and to serve and spend time with those we love,” writes motivational author Brendon Burchard in The Motivation Manifesto.

It’s easy to say ‘yes,’ but when was the last time you said ‘no’ to a request from a friend or colleague?

We are terrified to come across as rude, so we skirt around the issue and delay our response. Yet, this only makes matters worse.

Do you know people who are comfortable saying no to demands?

Consider how they take command of the situation. Assuredly, they do not allow others to impose upon their time which they treat as sacred.

A place where our time is often disrupted is the work environment, through emails, colleagues and our bosses’ requests.

I often hear people discussing how exhausted they are at the end of a working day, having said yes to many requests. They put their own work on hold to satisfy other people’s needs.

Author Greg McKeown states in his book Essentialism: “Every time we check email, we’re checking somebody else’s agenda.”

In this example, Greg reminds us to be mindful of our time and not to take on more than we can manage.

The Need for Acceptance

In a similar vein, Brendon Burchard urges us to take charge of our time, “We must look to the world’s random pushy people, the countless needy people, the people not on our list of those we want to love, care for, and attend to. It cannot be overstated: We must not fear saying, “No, I cannot help you now.”

Saying no is a war shield to fend off distractions, so you can focus on what is important. Your time is precious and should be guarded with fierce intensity so others don’t encroach
upon your freedom.

You’ve indeed noticed that every time you agree to something against your wishes, you feel bad about it later. You run through a mental dialogue about how you might have dealt with the situation. Yet, it’s too late by then.

“When you say ‘yes’ to others, make sure you are not saying ‘no’ to yourself.” — Paulo Coelho

I assure you, saying no has a nobler intent than you might think. It conveys your vision or goals and you refuse to be distracted.

It signifies commitment, passion and purpose on your part and mustn’t be misinterpreted as avoidance.

“It’s one thing to be distracted when you’re trying to focus, it’s another entirely to be hijacked before you even get to. The way to protect what you’ve said yes to and stay productive is to say no to anyone or anything that could derail you,” affirm authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan in The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results.

However, beneath your inability to say no lies a strong need for acceptance that dominates your interactions with others.

People will not misinterpret no as selfishness, as long as you communicate your intentions.

You might acknowledge their request, yet convey you have something important to attend to and do not wish to be sidetracked. You may reconsider at a later stage once your work is completed.

The benefit of saying no is to filter out those who infringe upon your time. For want of a better description, I call them gravediggers because they draw the life out of you.

Master marketer Seth Godin says, “You can say no with respect, you can say no promptly, and you can say no with a lead to someone who might say yes. But just saying yes because you can’t bear the short-term pain of saying no is not going to help you do the work.” “Godin gets it,” declares author Gary Keller and Jay Papasan once more.

Saying No Without Regret

Saying no relieves you of unwanted stress. You don’t have to contend with conflicts where you have undertaken a project or invitation against your wishes.

It affords you the time to attend to important life areas. Ultimately, we want to engage in more of these pursuits, instead of being obligated to please others.

In some cultures, I realise, saying no is frowned upon. There is repressed anger amongst people and family members who are obliged to say yes.

Let’s not mix our words — saying no is not disrespectful. You must convey your intentions in an assertive, yet respectful manner to balance harmony and diplomacy.

Remember: whenever you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. You’re putting others first before your own needs, which can cause stress.

Consider author Larry Weidel’s sentiments in his book Serial Winner: 5 Actions to Create Your Cycle of Success, “You must say no to some things in order to focus on others. Make sure you’re saying no to the unproductive things and yes to the most productive things.

Spend the majority of your time on the things you most want to do (because they are likely the best use of your time) and get brutally efficient at everything else.”

The key to saying no without regret is to recognise the feelings that arise in your body during your interactions with others. Why?

You become familiar with where your body holds tension and are likely to notice it the next time it arises in your contact with people.

You are being dictated by negative reactions in your body and so you avoid them by saying yes to appease others.

Author Brendon Burchard reminds us in The Motivation Manifesto, “We must take a long, unflinching look at our habit of giving our lives and agendas over to others or to meaningless things. We have to say no more often. We have to focus more. We have to fight harder to safeguard our time and our dreams and our souls.”

In Eva’s case, she taught her work colleagues how to treat her, even if she is unaware of it. She underestimated her self-worth by choosing to be liked in place of preserving her time foremost.

It boils down to knowing your true worth and standing in your own power. As you do, others recognise your genuineness and will treat you accordingly.

By honouring your authenticity, you move from being powerless to being empowered and you’ll take command of your life by adhering to your highest values. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Self-empowerment author, expert speaker and coach.

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