Just Say No: Reclaim Your Life and Say No to Stress

It is human nature to want to help others, to be there for friends, relatives and colleagues, and to say “yes” to every request, big or small, hard or easy. Unfortunately, sometimes a person needs to say “no” – sometimes to save their energies for the more important tasks and requests, and other times just to take care of their own mental and physical health.

Health professionals frequently urge their patients to set boundaries and to give themselves the permission to say “no.” Saying “no” to someone does not make a person bad or mean that they are rejecting people – it is just that sometimes people need to put their own health needs first, especially if they want to be there for others when it is really important.

No One Can Be All Things to All People All of the Time

Most people want to help others when asked; it is human nature, especially when colleagues, friends, family members and other loved ones are asking for help. Most people who can help when asked will do so, but not everyone can provide the right kind of help, nor can they be everything to everybody, and certainly not every time. Sometimes, saying “no” is actually the most helpful answer to a request for help, as the person may either then help themselves or look to someone better prepared or more qualified to assist them with whatever they need.

Saying “no” need not be an unpleasant experience for either party. As author and expert Odette Pollar advises in an article entitled “Saying No“, when doing so, “be civil, be polite, and be understanding, but say ‘no.’ Help others find alternative ways to solve their problems. Search for a way to be useful without doing the entire project. Offer referrals or suggestions about how they can handle the situation. Encourage them to come to you if there are problems for which there are no other solutions, but also encourage self-reliance.”

The Desire to Seek Approval vs. the Fear of Rejection 

People want the approval of others, especially those they care for. To many, always saying “yes” is how they hope or expect to gain such approval. Others say “yes” simply because they fear that by saying “no,” those doing the asking will reject them, or value them less. Saying “yes” simply to gain the favor of others can often backfire – as that favor they show may not be genuine, but based merely on what they know they can get when they ask. True friends understand when someone says they cannot be there or are unable to do something. Someone who rejects another or ends a friendship simply because someone said “no” is not a true friend, for while friendship is not always a balanced, neither is it a one-way street. This can be especially true at work, says author, blogger and career counselor Anita Bruzzese, who explains in a recent article that “if you can’t say ‘no,’ then you’re not only losing control of your career, but your life. You’re letting too many outside factors dictate your path, and that only leads to disaster.”

Saying “No” Does Not Mean You are Rejecting People 

There is a big difference between saying “no” to someone’s request for help and rejecting them as a person. Friends understand that their friends have lives, needs and responsibilities of their own, and that those may often take priority over whatever drives their friendship. As Pollar put it, sometimes people need to explore their motives for “continually saying ‘yes.’” While “being constantly called upon is a real ego boost,” she notes, “the downside is that your desire to be needed can be taken advantage of by others who know that they can always count on you.”

Priorities, Boundaries and Giving Yourself Permission to Say “No”

Life is complicated and filled with responsibilities that put demands on a person’s time, resources and abilities. Not every thing that comes up is equally important – and some are not important at all, let alone necessary. Learning to prioritize is a key factor to succeed in business, battle or life, and that means setting boundaries about just how much time and effort a person can give to satisfying the needs of others. Sometimes, putting yourself first is the top priority, not only for your own health and well-being, but also because if you are going to be there when friends and family really do need you for the big, important and necessary events, you have to be healthy enough to be there for others.

That is why we need to develop the skill of setting boundaries, and why we not only need to know when to say “no,” but also to give ourselves the permission to do so. Not giving ourselves  that permission only leads to more stress, and a depressing feeling we have let others down.

A Final Word of Advice from the Experts

Saying “no” to others at times means saying “yes” to yourself.  Constant “self-sacrifice” to satisfy the needs of others, as the health professionals at WebPsychology warn “may be inappropriate and even damaging” especially if “the person making that sacrifice is unhappy, angry or physically unwell.”