No one would be shocked by the statement that women have a hard time saying no. It’s what lies at the heart of feeling taken advantage of, burned out, walked on, and inevitably leads to overextending yourself.
You know you need to say no, but you just can’t bring yourself to utter that magic little word.
There are a variety of reasons why women tend to struggle with this, but regardless of the why, this inability to say no holds you back and prevents you from taking care of yourself.
Women are not born with an inability to say no. They’ve been taught this throughout their lives.
Fortunately, what you’ve learned can always be unlearned!
WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT TO SAY NO?
If you're like most women you are aware that you need to say no more often, so this isn't exactly groundbreaking news. But, despite this knowledge, you continue to say yes.
Even strong, independent, alpha-females struggle with saying ‘no’ at times, so you're not alone!
All too often, when you agree to everything, you probably end up feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, resentful, frustrated, and sometimes even angry.
So, why is it so difficult to say no? There are a variety of reasons for this, but the most common tend to be:
- You don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings
- You don’t want to let anyone down
- You don’t like conflict
- You don’t want to turn down an opportunity
Ultimately, women don’t say no because they want to please people and make others feel better, even if it’s at their own expense.
Women are taught to take care of others, nurture those around them, be friendly, smile, etc. Society also teaches women that it’s selfish to put their own needs first (actually, it’s not selfish!).
And let’s be honest...it’s a lot easier to say yes than to say no. By saying yes, the only struggle is within yourself, and that’s a lot easier to manage (and ignore) than if it’s with others. So, it’s no wonder that women struggle with saying no.
5 REASONS WHY YOU NEED TO SAY NO
Despite the challenges with saying ‘no,' many benefits make it worth the effort to include this word in your vocabulary.
#1 | IT SETS BOUNDARIES
Personal boundaries are the guidelines or “rules” that establish a safe or acceptable way for other people to interact with you. It also identifies situations you allow to yourself to be part of, and when crossed, it determines how you respond.
You are the only one that can create your boundaries.
Without them, you end up in situations that make you uncomfortable or take away your power. It’s your responsibility to set the boundaries in your life and saying ‘no’ is one of the most effective tools for getting there.
#2 | IT IMPROVES PRODUCTIVITY
I get it, you're very busy and have a lot competing for your attention. While multitasking is something at which most women are particularly skilled, numerous studies say you get less done when you multitask (here’s an article that is one example of many if you don’t believe me!).
When you say ‘yes’ to too many things, you spread yourself thin. By saying 'no,' you don’t overwhelm yourself and can focus on what’s important. By limiting what you need to focus on, you allow yourself to get a lot more done and to be more productive.
Take it from Steve Jobs: “Focusing is about saying ‘no.'”
#3 | IT PUTS YOU IN CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE
When you consistently say ‘yes,' you’re at the mercy of everyone else. You give your power to everyone that asks you to do something.
When you start saying ‘no’ you take the reins back on your life and you decide what’s important or not. When you are in control of how you spend your time, you will feel less stressed.
#4 | IT ALLOWS YOU TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
When you are constantly saying ‘yes’ to everyone else, you are unconsciously saying ‘no’ to yourself.
Saying ‘no’ gives you the chance to honor your personal needs. For many women, this is the primary reason they never say ‘no.' They feel an obligation to take care of others and feel it’s selfish to put their own needs first.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again (and again, and again!); It is NOT selfish to take time for yourself!
For example, if you are feeling exhausted from a crazy week at work, it gives you the means to stay in and take a break over the weekend to recharge.
If you don’t take care of your needs, you’re running on an empty tank of gas, which means you’re not giving your best effort at anything.
#5 | IT IMPROVES YOUR CONFIDENCE
The beauty of learning to say ‘no’ is that when you become selective with your commitments, something amazing happens...you start to feel more confident.
You will feel your sense of self-worth rise which in turn boosts your self-confidence.
As your confidence grows and you own your self-worth, it no longer bothers you to say ‘no’ when necessary. In other words, you will feel better about yourself, AND it gets easier to say ‘no’!
HOW TO START SAYING NO
Now that you know why it’s so important to start considering what's requested of you more closely, you might be wondering how to start.
- Start small: Practice saying no by using it for small things or in situations that aren’t that important - like saying no to upsell at a restaurant or store.
- Think before you say yes: Think about how doing something you don’t want to do will make you feel, both emotionally (i.e., resentful) and physically (i.e. exhausted). By putting in a little thought as to how you’ll feel in the coming days/weeks by saying ‘yes,' it might help you stand your ground more easily.
- Make it a game: Challenge yourself to say ‘no’ ten times in one week (or if you’re feeling brave...make it ten times in one DAY!). Consider the costs: Ask yourself two questions before you say ‘yes’:
- How will it serve me to say ‘no’?
- What will it cost me to say ‘yes’?
Most likely you’ll see there are more benefits to saying ‘no’ because of the ‘costs’ of saying ‘yes.'
- Challenge the stories you’re telling yourself: Most people say ‘yes’ to please others and not disappoint them. But, the majority of times, what you’re imagining will happen if you say ‘no’ is just a story you’re making up in your head. The reality is never as bad as you think. Will someone be disappointed? Maybe, maybe not. Challenge the story you’re telling yourself because most likely, what you’re imagining wouldn’t be the reality.
If saying ‘no’ is still too much of a challenge, try responding with ‘let me think about it.' It gets you off the hook (temporarily) without agreeing to what you don’t want to do.
You will have to follow up eventually, though, and decline, but that can be easier when you have some time to think it through and prepare your message. Warning! This should not become your permanent crutch! Ultimately, you need to learn to be okay with the word ‘no.'
Learning to say ‘no’ is one of the best things you can do for your personal growth and empowerment. It puts you in the driver’s seat.
Remember, it’s not your job to fulfill other people’s expectations.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to say no, and it doesn’t bother me anymore. But, even for me, there are times when it’s a challenge, and I cave into the expectations of others. It’s not easy to master the ‘no’ but when you learn to say ‘no’ more often, your life will become easier.