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Say No in 4 Simple Steps

Sometimes in the name of politeness or pleasing others you cut disconnect from your  own needs and feelings with some idea of what's good for others.  You say yes, when you really want to say no.  You find yourself overcommitted and resentful of others for asking too much of you.  

Saying no gets easier when you can identify your own needs and understand how meeting your own needs makes you a better person for others to be around.

Here are four simple steps to saying no that helps you stay connected to your needs while still caring for the other person.

1. When someone makes a request of you, get clear on the request before answering.  This sets you up for a more clear negotiation and also buys you time to consider your answer.  A request is clear when you can visualize exactly what you would be doing. (When?  For how long?  How often?  With who? Where?).

2. Guess what needs s/he is hoping to meet with the request.  This helps you understand where the other person is coming from and helps you get connected to your caring for them while not rushing to answer yes or no.  For example, if a friend asks you to help her move, you might start by responding like this:   

You:  So you're needing support with the heavy things?

Your friend:  Well, no, I don't have anything real heavy.  I am just feeling emotional about this move and wanting some company.
You:  Oh, okay, you're wanting some company.

3. Then express your feelings and needs in response to the request.  This means taking your time and connecting with what's really up for you.  It might sound something like this:
You:  I'm feeling torn because our friendship is important to me and I want to be there for you.  At the same time, integrity and trust are important to me so I am wanting to keep my word with my nephew to take him fishing Saturday.

4. Lastly, brainstorm a strategy in which all needs could be met.  This might mean directing the request to someone else or negotiating a different time and circumstance.  It might sound something like this:

You:  Do you have any ideas about how I could support you as well as maintain my commitment with my nephew?

Your friend:  Could you do that with your nephew then come over to my new place for dinner in the evening and hang out a bit?

Saying "no" really means you're saying yes to other needs. Knowing what needs are up for you when you don't have a commitment on your calendar is especially important in learning to say no.  Make sure self-care takes up space on your calendar as well.  It's easier to say no when you look at your calendar and it says nap or gardening or whatever else nourishes you.

When there is a sense of connection and honoring of the needs of both, you will be able to find a decision that truly meets everyone's needs.  All needs can be met.  It just doesn't always look the way you think it will, and it may not involve you.

This week, notice when you want to say no to a request.  Listen for the needs behind the request and make sure you really know what the request is.  Then express the needs up for you.  Look for a way all needs can be met.

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Invalidating Other’s Feelings

1 Response

  1. Feb 15, 2009

    Thanks for elaborating "yes => NO to something else". I appreciated it that you offered more explanation.

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