Hello Workwell

Say No to Something Today

SoulAlyssa Davis
Photo by Ali Sinclair for Hello Workwell

Photo by Ali Sinclair for Hello Workwell

“We live in a ‘yes’ culture, where it’s expected that the person who is going to get ahead is the go-getter who says yes to everything that comes their way.” — Dara Blaine, Career Coach

We’re Setting Some Boundaries

You know how it goes. Your friend asks if you’re free on Saturday. You happen to be, and you’re no liar, so you say yes. You immediately regret your answer as this is then undoubtedly followed with: will you help me with x, y, or z? All you wanted to do was stay in your pajamas till noon and binge watch This Is Us. Too late.

Why do we do this?

Time after time we say “yes” to things we don’t really want to do, filling up our days with obligations and “must dos”. We’re all a bunch of people pleasers. Research from University College London found that a majority of people would spend twice as much money to spare a stranger’s pain than they would themselves. This is right in line with what we’ve been taught since grade school: put other people’s needs before your own. The problem with this youthful directive? If we’re consistently having friends ask us to help out, bosses ask us to stay late, and partners ask us to do “this one thing” for them, we’re draining ourselves. It’s impossible to pour from an empty cup.

A Lesson From Cinderella

I have this best friend who is a real life Disney princess. She talks to squirrels and sings to birds, she skips through the streets, and she’s always laughing. However she differs from Sleeping Beauty and Snow White in her readiness to say “no”. I’ll ask if she wants to go grocery shopping, and she won’t think twice about rejecting my query. I’ll see if she wants to come to breakfast, and she’ll tell me she’d rather go for a jog and eat at home. The best part is that she won’t always give me an excuse. Sometimes she just says, “Nope. I don’t want to.” How freeing is that?

So over the past year I’ve been trying out her method. I say no to things that don’t serve me, no to things that bog me down, and no to things that I simply don’t want to do.

The result?

A life I’m actually happier with. I say no to relationships and friendships that aren’t working out. I say no to jobs that drain me. I say no to events that I don’t want to go to and tasks that I don’t want to do. I’m no hermit. I go out with friends all the time. I take endless odd jobs. I’m constantly on the move. But on days when I want to eat brownie batter out of the bowl and sleep until I wake up without an alarm, I do.

That’s not to say that every single thing I do in life is going to be enjoyable. This isn’t a fairytale. But we only get once chance at living, why waste our precious time doing things we’d rather not be doing?

You’ll find that when you start saying “no” to the things you don’t want to do, you can start saying “yes” to the things you do want to do. We have trouble saying no because we think that the other person will be so taken aback by our being forward or assertive about our needs. Research from Columbia University found that even people that thought they were being overly assertive, were seen as under-assertive by the other party. Meaning that you most likely won’t be seen as a selfish, terrible person when you do say no.

Your challenge: say no to something today. Cancel plans. Stay in bed. Take an indulgent bubble bath. Go for a jog. Make time for that yoga class you’ve been putting off. It’s not that we “don’t have the time”. It’s that we’re making time for the wrong things.