Never exchange five minutes of discomfort for two weeks of work and a year of resentment.
Everywhere I go and speak, people talk to me about their schedules. They tell me they’ve never been busier. They’re overwhelmed and out of balance.
Part of the problem is caused by their inability to say “No.” When people ask them to do something, even things they don’t want to do or have time to do, they say “Yes.” They seem incapable of refusing other people’s requests.
That’s unfortunate. Without the ability to say “No,” they end up living someone else’s life instead of their own. They’re governed by other people’s priorities, and that’s not a very healthy, happy, or satisfying way to live.
Some people have a hard time saying “No” because THEY HOLD ON TO SOME SELF-DEFEATING BELIEFS. Others have a hard time because THEY DON’T KNOW HOW TO SAY IT. Let’s take a look and see if you fit into either one of these categories.
In terms of self-defeating beliefs, some people think, “If I refuse, I’m rejecting my friend.” Not at all. Refusing someone’s request doesn’t mean that you reject her. It doesn’t mean that you’re selfish or uncaring. It simply means you cannot or will not do what she is asking you to do. It means you’re putting some limits on your time.
If you’re afraid that your refusal will be interpreted as rejection, explain your refusal. Tell the other person that it is a statement about your boundaries. It is not a statement about the importance of your relationship.
Others think, “If I refuse, the other person will never ask me again. And I want the other person to ask in the future.”
For example, you may want your boss to ask you about taking on a more responsible position in the company, but at this particular time, you just can’t do what he is asking. So tell him you would like him to ask again. Give a short explanation as to why you’re refusing this time, and make it clear when you would say “Yes.”
Still other people have the self-defeating belief that, “If I really care about the other person, I should agree to the request.” It’s true that caring friends do things for each other — but not necessarily everything.
You can express your caring in lots of ways besides saying “Yes” to every request. You may be willing, for example, to spend hours comforting your friend, but you may not be willing to watch her dog or loan her $500.
It’s like the cartoon I saw a while ago. A customer was complaining about the service and product he had received. The customer service agent replied by saying, “We’ll refund your money, give you a free replacement, shoot the manager, and close the store. Would that be satisfactory?”
Obviously it’s an exaggeration, but you get the point. You may be willing to do a number of things for the customer to show that you care, but you don’t have to do everything he wants. If that were the case, you’d probably go out of business.
Finally, you’ll have a hard time saying “No” if you’re thinking, “It’s less painful to say ‘Yes’ than deal with his feelings if I say ‘No’.” It probably is easier to say “Yes,” in the short run. But you’ve got to put things in perspective.
Ask yourself this question. How long will you feel uncomfortable if you refuse? Five minutes? Ten minutes? An hour? A day? Compare that to how much time and energy you’ll spend granting the other person’s request. And consider how long you’ll resent the fact you said “Yes.” Sometimes you exchange a five-minute period of discomfort for a two-week commitment and a year of resentment. It’s not a good trade for you or anyone else.
I urge you to get rid of these self-defeating beliefs. It’s one way to take charge of your life. Come to my Peak Performance Boot Camp, and I’ll show you another fifty ways.
Make sure you read next week’s “Tuesday Tip.” I’ll tell you how to assertively, effectively say “No” to the things you don’t want to do.
Action: Reread the four self-defeating beliefs in today’s Tip. Decide which one you are most guilty of believing. Then write out a positive affirmation you can tell yourself whenever your self-defeating belief pops into mind. For example, if you believe you have to say “Yes” to show caring to someone, tell yourself, “I am a caring person whether or not I do what she wants me to do.” Repeat your new affirmation to yourself over and over again. Eventually you’ll be able to say “No” with ease instead of guilt.