How to say NO to Others

A lot of us find it difficult to say “no” even to little things that, if we would take a moment to think about, have no importance for us in the near or distant future. As for those of us who get that nasty label – people pleasers, this becomes an even more complicated issue. The question that we should ask ourselves is: aren’t we all underestimating/overlooking the amount of time and energy that we invest into saying “yes” to nearly everything? Shouldn’t we take a moment and reflect on the advantages that are given by a negative answer instead?

Let me share with you something about myself. I consider myself a positive person, concerned with my friends’ wellbeing. I like to give my support where it is needed and when it’s possible and feels right for me to do so. I’m not a people pleaser per se, but my background (meaning my family and my childhood experience) has taught me to be nice to people. I remember that as a teenager, for me, being nice to my friends involved saying “yes” to basically anything they asked of me. For a period of time, when I had nothing to do but kill time, this was no problem. I didn’t take the time to think it over, or consider if what I was doing for and with them didn’t conflict too much with what I wanted to do for myself. If I could help with something, I’d just do it.

In principle, I’m roughly the same person right now, caring, and extremely attached to the people that matter the most in my life, but I’m also changed compared to back then when I wasn’t compelled to think about the importance of (managing) time – an important lesson that was still to be learned. As I grew up and matters of life took more and more of my time – my first job, my girlfriend, my family relying more on me than when I was young – I came to truly feel the heavy weight that was pressing down my shoulders. We call this pressure “responsibilities”. I hated the word. Why should I be responsible, I was thinking to myself? I’m just a teenager with nothing to do but dream about my future. The dreaming time, however, was over for me, and soon I found myself craving desperately for every free hour I could have. A couple of years later I was rethinking my whole “strategy”. Whenever people were asking me whether I could do this or that, I would check with myself if I did have the time and energy to invest in what had been proposed to me and respond accordingly. Some may argue that I’ve become more selfish, but isn’t the whole concept of selfishness a little bit misunderstood?

This is an excerpt from the book “How to Say No”