Do you say yes to everything when you wish you could just say no? You are not alone. Susan Newman explains how to say no to just about anybody — and everybody — friends, family, bosses and co-workers — without starting your guiltmeter running. Newman visited “Today” to discuss her book, “The Book of No: 250 Ways to Say It and Mean It and Stop People-Pleasing Forever.” Here's an excerpt:
Stepping into No: The Basics
There are five basic steps to keep in mind to hone your ability to turn people down. As soon as you begin to apply them, you will start to feel justified saying no and you will see results. You won’t be able to say no to everything asked of you, nor will you want to, but you don’t have to be an ever-accommodating yes-person to be loved, respected, and admired.
1. Make a list of your yeses over the period of a week.If you are an inveterate yes-person, the number will shock you. The acceptable number will be different for everyone. One request could send you into a tailspin, while it might take four or more to set off someone else. The real gauge is how pressured, tight for time, or resentful you feel. Any negative reaction — Why did I agree? What was I thinking? What am I doing? I don’t want to be available, I would rather be elsewhere — is the true measure.
2. Pay attention to how you parcel out your time. If most of your time is monopolized assisting one friend, when will you see other friends? If family or job demands are high, what’s left over for your own enjoyment? When your time is well managed, you’ll keep some in reserve for what’s most important to you.
3. Get your priorities straight. Who has first crack at you without your feeling burdened or anxious? A child? A boyfriend? A girlfriend? A spouse? A boss?
4. Know your limits — start to define them if you don’t know what they are. They can be emotional or physical or both, but there’s a point at which your line is crossed. How much of other people’s problems can you tolerate without feeling drained? How long are you willing to put up with one-way friendships with you always on the giving end? Because you’re not a trained therapist, decide how personal you’re willing to be and what kind of requests make you uncomfortable. On the physical side, when does your stamina give out? What requests are too taxing? To stay healthy your body and mind require rest to rejuvenate, and if you don’t set limits you won’t get it.
5. Give control to others to ease your responsibilities. When you don’t trust others to be in charge or to get things accomplished, you wind up agreeing to and doing far more than your share of what someone else could be doing. Eliminating the need to run things yourself to be sure they turn out the way you like them relieves much of the pressure you put on yourself.
Rarely is a request as straightforward as it appears, and many of the difficulties you’ll face in responding are complicated — at least it feels that way. You could fear damaging a friendship, hurting a parent’s feelings, disappointing a boss, having a child say, “I hate you.” Yet the more often you refuse, the more quickly you’ll learn that the fallout is less extreme than you imagine. Once you accept these realities, the easier it is to say no.
The No Credo
As you become proficient at saying no, these rights will become standard operating procedure. This credo significantly reduces any trouble you might have. It is your bill of rights to the freedom and life you deserve. You have the right to:
- Make your feelings and desires known
- Establish and guard your personal boundaries
- Keep your needs in the forefront so saying no is possible
- Exercise your power and choice to say no
- Repeat no until you are heard
- Use no to get your life in control and to be in control of it
- Weigh the fallout of saying no
- Request the details before committing
- Postpone an answer; stalling for time is your prerogative
- Refuse anyone who insists on an immediate answer
- Turn down those who flatter or attempt to con you into a yes
- Withhold explanations in an attempt to soften your no
- Avoid tasks beyond your ability or expertise
- Alter a request to make it — or part of it — manageable
- Suggest someone else or offer an alternative solution
- Say no initially and change your mind later if you wish
Excerpted from “The Book of No” by Susan Newman. Copyright © 2005, Susan Newman. All rights reserved. Published by McGraw-Hill. No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.