Many clients come to see me when they are stressed, depressed or full of resentment. Often, their assessments reveal that they give to others constantly. That is, they put their partner, parents, co workers, neighbours, friends – everyone else – before themselves.
I use the metaphor of the parent on the airplane accompanied by young children. If the cabin pressure is problematic, who gets the oxygen mask first? Yes, the parent. Why? The parent needs to be functioning so that s/he can take care of the children.
In our own lives, we need to take care of ourselves first before we can give to others. Protecting your physical and psychological health from being over-stretched, leaves you present and able to give to others when you deem it necessary. When you learn to say ‘No’, it means that you are setting personal boundaries.
Saying ‘no’ to a request that you aren’t comfortable doing or that you simply don’t have the time or the desire to do, allows you to embrace who you are rather than adopting a persona to please others.
Saying some “No’s” to others states that you are saying “Yes” to yourself. Training yourself to say “No” is a process of empowerment. Here are three tips to follow:
Be firm. Learn to say “No” with assertiveness. “ No, I won’t ” is clear and firm , whereas “ I can’t ” is weak and invites people to try to change your mind. If the thought of having to say “No” to someone important in your life makes you anxious, then practice beforehand while imagining the scenario going well for you.
Protect your boundaries. “Thanks for the invite, that evening does not work for me, I will not be attending”. You do not have to give explanations. You do have to be respectful. When you have made the decision to say “No” to someone it is because you are saying “Yes” to yourself.
Make Your “Yes” more meaningful. When you learn to say ‘No’ to some requests then when you do say “yes” it is because you really want to give of yourself. People will learn to respect your boundaries.
The more prepared you are, the more relaxed and confident you will be. Take care of yourself, say “No’ at times so that you can say “yes” to self.
Photo courtesy: Gabriel Garcia Marango