Do you have people talking you into doing things you really didn't feel like doing?
Do you find yourself getting talked into going to events you didn't want to attend? Many of us find ourselves stuck saying "yes" when we really wanted to say "no". Are any of these familiar to you?
You worked the weekend again because everyone else had something more important to do, so you were stuck being the one with the poorest excuse.
You really wanted to stay home but there you were spending money on an event you weren't even interested in attending.
You went to a party where you didn't actually like the people, and sat around bored, wondering when you could finally leave.
The answer is both simple and complex. The simple part is to just say "no". The hard part is to just say "no". Where we usually get in trouble is in giving too much information. It usually goes something like this:
The boss: "Terry, I need someone to work this weekend, can you do it?" Terry: "But I worked the last two weekends." The boss: "I know, but Joe is going on a fishing trip this weekend and Julie is taking her kids to the circus. What do you have planned?" Terry: "I was going to sleep late and catch up on some reading." The boss: "Well, you can do that anytime. It would be harder for Joe or Julie to rearrange their plans." Now you feel like you have no argument. You have to do it. You are stuck. Again.
Your friend: "Terry, I really want to go see the Lipizzaner Horse Show this weekend, will you come with me?" Terry: "Um, well, I planned on doing some gardening this weekend." Your friend: "Oh, you can do that next weekend, and the show is only here now. It'll be great. I'll pick you up at 6:00 am so that we can have time to walk around the stables before the show. I could spend all day just looking at them. It'll be so much fun!" You have no interest in horses, and you know you are going to hate it, but what can you say at this point?
The problem in the "no" was in giving too much information. Don't make excuses. There is something about telling people the "why" that hooks them in and makes them think that it is ok to judge our reasons. If we do not give them the hook, if there is nothing for them to grab onto, it is harder for them to judge us and easier for them to accept our answers. Try these responses instead:
"I am not available."
"I hope you have a good time without me."
"It was kind of you to ask me, but I am just not available."
Most of the time, when we set clear boundaries people respect them. We expect people to get angry, but if we are clear and calm they tend to accept our responses. It may seem an odd thing, and may seem counter intuitive, but usually when we answer the question simply and directly people will accept our responses.
Let's go through those scenarios again with different responses. Remember, it is important to stay calm. Don't respond with emotion. You are stating simple facts. Don't be angry or defensive, just clear and calm.
The boss: "Terry, I need someone to work this weekend, can you do it?" Terry: "No. I am not available." The boss: "But Joe is going on a fishing trip this weekend and Julie is taking her kids to the circus. What did you have planned?" Terry: "I am not available." The boss: "It would be hard for Joe and Julie to rearrange their plans. Can you change your plans?" Terry: "No, I can not." You do not have to explain why. It is intrusive and unprofessional for a boss to press you on your reasons.
Your friend: "Terry, I really want to go see the Lipizzaner Horse Show this weekend, will you come with me?" Terry: "No, but thanks for asking." Your friend: "Oh, come on, the show is only here this weekend. It'll be great. I'll pick you up at 6:00 am so that we can have time to walk around the stables before the show. I could spend all day just looking at them. It'll be so much fun!" Terry: "No thanks. I hope you have a great time." Most people will give up at this point, they will get the message and move on.
If you are dealing with someone who just won't take no for an answer, use the simplest response you can. For instance just answer with "I'd rather not discuss that." If you repeat the same answer a couple of times, most people will catch on and stop asking. For those stubborn few, just change the subject or walk away.
Setting boundaries takes some practice. The first few times may be difficult, but with practice you'll find that just saying no is easier than making excuses. You have a right to make your own decisions about how to spend your time. Go, enjoy your new found freedom. Do what you really want to do!
Ah, sweet freedom.
Rita Carroll is a life coach who specializes in helping clients all over the country live the lives they really want. For personal coaching services, e-mail her at Rita.LifeCoach@GMail.com to set up an appointment.
marla (01/24/2007) I could have put this to use a few months ago. =) I had to go to New York with my boss and she made us fly in a day early (austensively tosave money) and then she pressured me to spend all day with her walking around Manhattan. Then when I was exhausted and thought I was going to be able to go back to my hotel room, she pressured me to go to dinner and then a movie on top of that! Of course, I went but I felt so exhausted at the end of the day and very mad at myself and her so making me go trapse all over town! Then I complained about it for weeks to anyone who would listen. After reading this now I realize it was my bad choice and inability to say no. Thank you for this.
sheila (01/26/2007) I think this happens mainly to women, though my brother has issues with this one. But I can never remind myself enough of this. Many times I have found myself in situations where I become a "yes" person and then silently curse whatever it was I agreed to do and the person I agreed to do it for. That's no way to live! I should have just said no in the first place. It takes practice. Thank you for the reminder!
the cynic (01/26/2007) I agree and also agree that it happens mainly to women. My husband stands up for himself ALL THE TIME, and is rarely slapped on the wrist for it. But when a woman defends herself and says "No," it seems like we're more likely to be "whined at" or made to feel guilty about our No. I also have assertiveness issues on top of that, which makes it a real pain sometimes.