How to survive saying no

How to say no

Constantly saying yes could be causing undue stress and undermining the very relationship you’re saying ‘yes’ to keep. Here, Susan Newman shares her top tips to honing your ability to turn people down.

“You won’t be able to say no to everything asked of you, nor will you want to, but you don’t have to be an ever-accommodating yes person to be loved, respected and admired,” she says.

1. Audit and vet your yeses. If you are a yes person, counting how many times you use the word ‘yes’ in a week will shock you. The real gauge of whether your yes quotient’s over the top is how pressured, time-poor or resentful you feel. Any negative reaction – Why did I agree? What was I thinking? What am I doing? I don’t want to be available, I would rather be elsewhere – is a sign you’re at your threshold.

2. Time manage consciously. If most of your time is monopolised assisting one friend, when will you see other friends? If family or job demands are high, what’s left over for your own enjoyment? When your time is well managed, you’ll keep some in reserve for what’s most important to you.

3. Articulate your priorities. Who has first crack at you without you feeling burdened or anxious? A partner? A child? A friend? A boss?

4. Define parameters. They can be emotional, physical or both, but there’s a definite line and you need to get to know it. How much of other people’s problems can you tolerate without feeling drained? How long are you willing to put up with one-way friendships with you always on the giving end?

Decide how personal you’re willing to be and what kinds of requests make you uncomfortable. On the physical side, when does your stamina give out? Which requests are too taxing? To stay healthy your body and mind require rest, and if you don’t set limits you won’t get it.

5. Delegate surplus work. When you don’t trust others to be in charge or to get things accomplished, you wind up agreeing to and doing far more than your share. Eliminating the need to run things yourself to be sure they turn out the way you like relieves much of the pressure you put on yourself.

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