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Eileen Durward
Ask Eileen

23 April 2013

Why it's so easy to say yes

The other day I ended up saying yes to something that I really wished I hadn’t and I spent a few wasted moments berating myself for not just saying ‘Sorry, no can do’. It got me thinking just how bad most of us are at saying ‘No’

However, I am really, really good at saying yes. Friends or family ask ‘Will you…’, my boss says ‘Will you…’ and I say ‘yes’ before even knowing what it is they want me to do and I bet that most of you are the same.

Saying no is very hard. We feel guilty that we are letting other people down, that they will not regard us favourably or that they will complain, and then we will feel even worse or that we are a failure if we can’t do this and that all at once.

Learning to say 'no'

So how do you learn to say no? It’s not easy, especially after a lifetime of trying to please everyone. Try practicing saying ‘no’ to yourself in front of a mirror first to get the feel of it, and then start doing it for real – just small things to start with to see how you get on! Just remember that most people really will not think any less of you for doing so; but don’t fall into the trap of justifying your refusal because you can then end up changing your mind and saying yes!

If saying no really is too hard for you, try saying it the Myanmar way. Whilst travelling there on holiday last year, our guide taught us a few common words such as ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. I asked him what ‘no’ was and he said that they don’t really use the word ‘no’, as they consider it rude to say it directly to someone. Instead they say ‘I will think about it’ or ‘I will get back to you’ or ‘maybe’ and I thought that was just brilliant. Doing it this way also gives you time to think more about their request and whether it is a good idea for you to do it. When you do get back to them, you are then in control of the conversation.

Remember, too, that giving yourself more ‘me-time to do what you really want to do will have such beneficial effects on your health and wellbeing. I have written a promise to myself on a pretty piece of paper, framed it and put it where I can see it every day. It says ‘I Promise to Take the Easiest Path’ and that often means me having to learn to say no!

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