What do you do when a good friend invites you out but you’d rather stay in? Or when your boss asks you to take on extra work that’s not part of your job? Is your gut reaction to say No!!! Then the next thing you know you’re grinning and cheerily shouting “Sure!”
Sounds all too familiar, right? We love to help others, don’t we? And it sure is great to be open to new opportunities, experiences, and life. Sometimes. Sometimes we say yes because we’re afraid to say no. We’re afraid of what people will think of us. Maybe they’ll stop liking us, they’ll get upset or they’ll feel hurt. It’s especially hard to say no to someone in a position of authority, like your boss, your parents, or your domineering two-year old.
Saying yes to everyone can give you an acute case of what I call “Doormatitis”. Symptoms of Doormatitis include feeling exhausted, frustrated and letting people walk all over you like you’re a doormat.
I used to be a people-pleaser. At work I did the job of four people while getting paid for one. My boss loved it. Relaxation time for me was sitting in traffic. Do you know what my secret fantasy was? To be cloned. Seeing how unhappy and stressed I was, my best friend Sam gave me some advice, “Rukhsana, your To Do list is longer than the Corniche. What you need to do first is get a life!”
I had to admit Sam was right. I needed to respect my time more and overcome my guilt. I got motivated by leadership gurus like Warren Buffett. Buffett once said, “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” Warren Buffett taught me that when you have a choice, it’s much more important to know how to say no than yes.
I have three tips for you to say no without the guilt.
Tip no 1. Buy yourself some time. And I don’t mean a Rolex. I mean don’t respond with a knee-jerk yes. Say something like ‘I need to check my calendar’ or ‘I’ll get back to you’. Then decide if you truly want to do it on a scale of 1 to 10.
Tip no. 2. Be clear and direct, not wishy-washy. If you mean no, don’t say maybe. You can give a brief explanation, so you don’t sound rude, but there’s no need to be overly apologetic. You could say ‘Sorry, but I’m already committed that day’.
Tip no. 3. Say no responsibly. That means be tactful, be diplomatic, and when appropriate, lie. (OK, don’t lie, but get creative if you have to.) Try: “I’d love to come over on Friday, but I’ve scheduled a family emergency.”
The best way to take back control of your time and your life is by saying yes to less. It’s one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself and those you love.
Today I’m a doormat in rehab, a recovering people-pleaser, and I’m happier than ever. Learning to say no to people and things that stress me out, has changed my life. I feel more empowered, I focus for success and even though I might say no to you, I’m still a nice person. But like you, I still have to deal with people who won’t take no for an answer. Take my friend Sam. Last weekend she invited me for dinner at a popular Japanese restaurant Sushiminto. I needed to stay home and work on a presentation. She tried the power of pestering. She called and texted me all day. Finally, I had to put my foot down.
“Sam, I don't feel like sushi tonight. I had some bad news today.”
Sam looked concerned. Then she said softly, “I’m so sorry. What happened? Did someone die?”
“Yes,” I said. “My goldfish.”