30 July 2009

How Can I Learn To Say ‘No’?

One of my ezine readers from Papua New Guinea recently sent this cry for help.

‘I am struggling with managing my time in completing tasks assigned. I have read your book but the willpower in me to take control of my time is lacking. I guess my weakness is saying “No”. Could you provide some reference to this saying “No” subject.’

Here’s my answer. What other angles can you help with? Add a post and I’ll send her the link.

In my observation, the inability to say ‘no’ is usually linked with one or more of the following three bigger issues.

  1. Personality. You’re such a kind and generous person by nature that it completely goes against the grain to put yourself first in anything. You’ll find ‘yes’ rolling out your mouth without thought – and most of the time you love being involved and supporting others.
  2. Self-esteem. Someone with low self-esteem also finds it very difficult to appear not willing to do something. Inside themselves, although they’re happy to be helpful and supportive when appropriate, they feel resentful when taken for granted. The low self-esteem blocks them from being more assertive.
  3. Goals. A lack of clear goals means that we’re much more likely to go with the flow and to fall in with the expectations of those around us with a clearer view of what they want done. Low-level clarity and focus = low-level outcomes.

Some solutions:

Even though your personality type is the kind that gets great satisfaction from being helpful, there are still times when in your heart of hearts you know you should step back and look after yourself.

Listen to your intuition – that little small voice will guide you. For most of us, it takes practice to feel ‘ok’ about claiming some personal space to do what we want to do (or even know we should do) rather than being always available for others. If that’s you, practice saying ‘no’ – always appropriately of course. Sometimes ‘no’ is said in different ways such as ‘I can’t help you now. If it’s urgent is there someone else who can? I won’t be free to attend to it until …. ‘

I’ve so been here! For years, when I was adjusting to life as a single mother on government aid and even for some years after I’d started to get my life back together, I struggled to feel good about myself. I looked confident on the outside but inside I was a bundle of insecurities!

This is a life journey. The best solution is to surround yourself with supportive and encouraging people and read books that enlarge your horizons. In the personal development section of the library or bookshops see what jumps off the shelf for you. Also, reduce (or eliminate if you can!) the time spent with people who suck your energy and feelings of positivity.

Some of my favourite authors are Brian Tracy, Bob Proctor, John DeMartini, Napoleon Hill, Og Mandino, Shakti Gawain, Dan Millman and John Kehoe. And if you’ve got an IPod or some kind of mp3 player check out all the free podcasts available on ITunes. You’ll find millions of great presenters giving their best ideas for free!

The authors listed above are just a handful of the people who write about goalsetting.

In my observation a lot of people struggle not so much with the setting of goals but rather more with what they actually want. Therefore a colleague and I developed a very good workbook to help you with discovering exactly what your goals are. You might like to check out the ‘Getting A Grip on Life’ Goals Toolkit.

One more thing. You mention you’ve read my book. Which one? If it’s the little free ebook ‘How to Master Time in Only 90 Seconds’ it just gives a framework. You’ll get far more information from the first section of ‘Getting A Grip On Time’.

Here’s to the Power Of No!

3 thoughts on “How Can I Learn To Say ‘No’?”

  1. Two other reasons it can be hard to say no (speaking for myself!): one is the “because I can, I should” syndrome (which comes from a sense of duty); the other is the “when I say no I feel guilty” syndrome (will I let the other person down, or hurt their feelings). Any fellow Scottish Presbyterians out there will recognise these! They are good traits, but need boundaries. Clear goal setting is perhaps the best way to put these in perspective, do you think?

  2. Judith Lance says:

    Learning when and how to say ‘no’ has been an issue in my work and volunteer life. I’m an extreme extrovert, my work time involves people contact, so does my volunteer time. I’m a ‘get things done’ kind of person and personality profiling shows I’m motivated by helping others. I have never found that goals help me to say ‘no’. It is a boundaries/emotions issue. Yes, I enjoy being a ‘helper’ in daily life, but I also need to help myself. It’s as I develop my own sense of being O.K. with myself that it has become easier to say ‘no’ It’s also as I’ve learnt to ‘read’ people better that I find it easier to say ‘no’ to the time wasters and the ones who want to be rescued. A neat book that has helped me a lot is “Safe People” by Doctors Henry Cloud and John Townsend.ISBN 187 682 5081. The doctors are two christian psychologists who have a lot of good stuff to say about how we manage relationships in our lives.Read it and learn how to live a better life.

  3. Karyn Bennett says:

    I agree with Judith – personal boundaries are needed. When you understand this issue and also understand youself and what motivates you then you can do something about it.
    Also it is important to remember that what you are saying ‘No” to is a task or event and not the person asking for your time. We can still affirm the person while declining the event.

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