I’ve been working on a lot of things lately. I have been working on my writing. I’ve been trying to master the art of personal finances. I’ve been attempting to figure out my career and what I want in life…but the most important thing I have been working on, the one thing I am determined to master, is saying no.
It sounds kind of stupid honestly when you say it out loud. I’m learning how to say “no”. But it’s true, it’s something that I, a fully functioning, tax-paying“adult” do not know how to do.
Granted I use the term “adult” loosely, but still. I’m 23 years old and I have trouble saying “no.” How sad is that? It is literally a two letter word toddlers can say with ease, but it’s something I and a lot of other double-digit age people have trouble saying.
Have you ever seen a little kid say no? It’s amazing really, and I’m not talking about a toddler who says it repeatedly just because they know how. I’m talking about when a kid actually tells someone no.
There is no hesitation. They just declare it, “NO.” It’s like they are sure of their answer beyond a shadow of a doubt. They know in every fiber of their being they do not want whatever is being offered. They don’t want to eat their broccoli, they don’t want to go to bed, they don’t want to play tag and they are not afraid to tell you. Honestly it’s kind of badass, but more importantly, it’s simple.
That’s how kids say “no.” Simple. Direct. Straightforward.
Now take a minute and think about how an adult says “no.” It’s not usually simple now, is it? As adults, there are very few occasions when we feel we can give a flat direct “no.” Instead, we dance around it.
We ask for more time:
“Let me think about it.”
“Can I sleep on it?”
We avoid answering. We’ll leave messages unread and won’t return phone calls. Or the worst one of all we explain ourselves, we give a laundry list of reasons for why we are saying no. As if whatever excuse you are using is the only thing preventing you from saying yes. We grow up and we make “no” complicated.
But why!? When did “no” become so complicated? When do we as people go from screaming “no” till we are blue in the face, to creating excuses to soften the blow?
There are some things that are so incredibly simple when we are children that become infinitely more complicated when we are adults, and saying “no” is one of them. We can’t just say no because we don’t want to upset anyone. We don’t want to hurt anyone else’s feelings. We don’t want to disappoint them. We don’t want to feel any guilt.
But when we say yes, even when we don’t want to, the only person we are really hurting are ourselves.
You say yes, to taking your coworkers shift, or you take on more work at your job because you want to impress your boss, and then what happens? You end up overworked and exhausted.
You say yes to going out even when all you want to do is stay in. You waste your time doing something you don’t want to do and you waste your money on overpriced drinks. These may be just small examples but they are things we have all done and they are apart of the bigger picture. If you can’t say no to these small things, how will you say no to the big things?
What happens when someone asks you for a loan? Or to borrow your car? Maybe a friend wants to crash on your couch temporarily. If you can’t say no to everyday things how are you going to say no to all the big things that genuinely make you uneasy and uncomfortable? The truth is you can’t. You can’t say no and then you get stuck. Your friend owes you money. You get a dent in your car. Your couch crasher ends up staying twice as long as they originally said and now you’re in too deep and don’t know how to confront any of this. That’s why it’s important to nip it in the bud. We have to learn to crawl before we can walk. We need to learn to say “no” to little everyday things so we can say “no” to the big things when it matters.
Even though it can be difficult you need to remember saying “no” is actually good for you. When you say no, when you set boundaries, it actually makes your life a whole lot easier.
You set clear boundaries at work. You meet all of your goals, hit all your deadlines and feel confident in all of your work.
You take a day to yourself, doing whatever it is you like to do to relax. You take a bath, read a book, binge watch Netflix and eat junk food in your pajamas. Your perfect day all alone, no expectations, no one to bother you.
You are living your life without feeling any guilt. You have set clear and concise boundaries at work and at home and you feel balanced and at peace. You have complete transparency with your friends and coworkers and they all respect you and your strength.
All of these things are possible…all you need to do is learn to say NO.
Now, this won’t be easy. There is a serious learning curve and I am going to tell you right now. At some point, you will fail and say yes in an instance where you 100% should have said no. and that’s OK. This isn’t a change that happens overnight. It’s going to be a long difficult journey, so my advice to you don’t just quit cold Turkey. Find a method to help you meet this new goal. Put a post-it on your bathroom mirror, get a no committee, create a yes test, hang a pretty canvas on your wall, find a support system, figure out your preferred method and Get. To. Work.
Here is the goal: To say no firmly and directly like when we were kids. To say “no” without explaining ourselves. To not say yes out of guilt or obligation. And most importantly to expect these things from each other. Hopefully, if we all start saying “no” more often, it will eventually get easier to hear.