Is the Key to Being Happier Learning How to Say “No?”

Posted on June 4, 2018 | by

When it comes to making better choices, many of us focus on tangible things we can do to improve our health and wellbeing. From giving up sugar or alcohol to promising yourself you’ll sign up for a new gym class or get better about organizing your time, we usually attempt to make big changes to make improvements that provide lasting benefits.

But what about the seemingly small habits that end up etching away at our happiness and quality of life? If you’re someone who struggles with saying “no” to extra work, social engagements, or family responsibilities you don’t have time for, you may want to check out the post, “There’s a Better Way to Say ‘No’ to People” from lifestyle blog Create & Cultivate.

Why it’s so hard to say “no”

Whether it’s the desire to show off your great work effort in front of your boss or not wanting to hurt your old college roommate’s feelings when they invite you out, all the little, split-second yesses we utter can add up—often leaving us exhausted, stressed out, or unable to actually accomplish the thing you agreed to. This can lead to frustration with yourself and even conflict with others, a fear of which is most likely what led you to say “yes” in the first place.

As the article points out, straight out saying “no” can feel a little abrasive or like it will reflect poorly on you. In the moment, that negative experience seems riskier than overwhelming yourself. As a direct result of that fear, we fall into the habit of prioritizing others over our own feelings, time, and personal comfort—much to our own detriment.

Changing the conversation

The author offers this simple advice: replace no with a phrase that helps you feel empowered to decline and leaves no room for the other person to weedle a different response out of you. Because we have such negative connotations with “no” or “I can’t,” a change in the vocabulary we use to refuse a request can make a big impact on how both we and the recipient feel about the interchange. Instead of no, say, “I don’t…”

“When you say that you don’t do something, it’s an iron-clad refusal—you as a human don’t do what’s being asked of you, and you don’t do it for your own sake. The phrase turns a rejection into an affirmation of how you live your life, making it powerful and something you own.” Anna Meyer, Create & Cultivate

Saying, “I don’t begin new projects until I’ve finished current projects” or “I don’t go to events when I have to get up early the next day” both leaves no room for argument and also makes the conversation about what you do versus what you are capable of doing.

We encourage you to read the original article to learn more about why so many struggle with saying no and how to use “I don’t” in a productive, helpful way. We can’t wait to try implementing this small change in our day-to-day lives, and we wish you luck doing the same!

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