How to Say “No” Effectively

Hello folks! You and I are living in an age where we have innumerable commitments, responsibilities, and social situations that demand a lot from us. Let’s answer a few questions, shall we?
• Have you struggled with refusing to go to social events, parties or occasions?
• Have you forced yourself to be a part of social situations because you could not say no?
• Do you often feel coerced or pushed into doing things you don’t want to do, by the people around you?
• Do you cook up excuses or lie to keep getting out of situations or things you don’t wish to be a part of?
• Do you frequently agree with people just to maintain peace, at the expense of your own feelings?
• Along the same lines, do you suppress or neglect your own needs as you feel maintaining peace is more important than voicing out your thoughts?
• Do you feel like a lot of people take you for granted and push you around?

If you have answered affirmatively to all or any of these questions, there is a chance that you, just like many people struggle with saying no. This inability may be costing you your peace of mind, your freedom to express your emotions or even exercising your right to do or not do something. Our society shapes us to conform to the norm, to be agreeable to others. Of course, it has its benefits but at the same time, it is important for one to learn to say no. Setting boundaries is an important part of showing up for ourselves and being true to who we are. In this article, we will highlight some ways to exercise saying no.

1. Practice being Assertive

Assertiveness is to communicate ones thoughts or feelings in a straightforward manner, without becoming passive, aggressive or even passive aggressive. It also involves being mindful of others’ feelings and not hurting anyone, but at the same time being true to what we think and feel. Practicing assertiveness also means to take responsibility for one’s own feelings while drawing lines for others who may be hurting you. Practice being assertive by voicing out what u think directly. For eg. “Please do not push me to do this. I can decide for myself” “I think I have a right to not participate in this activity.” or for situations in which someone is being hurtful, “Let’s have this talk when you are ready to have a rational conversation.” “If you continue to behave this way, I’m afraid I will have to leave this conversation here.” These statements seem rude but that’s simply because we don’t know how to be assertive. Read more about assertiveness techniques to keep learning and adapting to various situations.

2. Identify areas where you seek Validation

Identify the situations or the people with whom you struggle to say no and try figuring out why. Maybe you don’t want to hurt the other person or want to make them happy, maybe you want them to think of you in a good light, maybe are worried about the consequences of saying no. There could be many reasons but seeking validation is an underlying drive for many situations. All humans seek validation from others, but when it hampers your peace of mind and you become a ‘yes man’ to people, it can be a problem. Identify your patterns and people with whom you struggle and find out your need in that situation that makes you say yes all the time.

3. Pay Attention to how you Feel

Many times, saying no, makes us feel low and it could be related to seeking validation, wanting to uphold an image, wanting to keep the other person happy. Whatever the reason,  you may feel a lot of emotions while saying no ranging from anxiety to fear to frustration.  Instead of quickly rushing to alleviate those feelings and distract yourself by caving in to the other person, try sitting with the feeling, with a nonjudgmental attitude. Allow those feelings to come and try to not feed them by fueling them with more thoughts. Watching the emotion, without getting lost in it or in the thoughts is key to letting it pass. Once you are okay with this discomfort, it will be easier to say no.

4. Try saying ‘No’ in minor situations

If saying no becomes too difficult to do in intense situations, start with practicing it in small situations. These could be decisions about what to eat, where to go, saying no to small activities. Of course, you don’t have to say no if you don’t want to, do not give yourself. But in situations that are easy to handle and you wish to express yourself by refusing something, you can start practicing.

5. Record your Thoughts, Feelings and Behavior

You can keep an Assertiveness log in which you catalog the day’s events in which you wanted to or did say no. Write down the event, what you thought, how you felt, and what u said or did at the behavior level or speech level. Identify times where you could have been assertive and said no when you wanted to but did not. Identify times when you became passive, aggressive or passive-aggressive. Keeping a record gives a way to introspect into ourselves, our mistakes and missed opportunities. It is a great way to reflect and get better at saying no.

6. Pick your Battles

We also don’t wish to go in the other direction to overcompensate. Situations in which you feel like you want to express yourself, or in which there is discomfort, of course, you should practice saying no. But saying no, for the heck of it, or putting your foot down for situations where you don’t want or feel the need to, may end up hurting others. Pick your battles and get wiser in knowing when to do what. Keeping a record helps with this.

At ZorbaWellness Rehabilitation Center, located in Mumbai, we often hear complaints from clients who are struggling with social anxiety, drug addiction or alcohol addiction, Obsessive-Compulsive disorder, or Depression, that they find it very hard to say no at the right time. Especially addict’s in recovery have a hard time in social situations which can trigger them to crave drugs or alcohol. Refusing time to close friends, family members or not being a part of some events can be difficult, especially if you are an addict in recovery in India. Same holds true for Social Anxiety or generalized anxiety disorders, where our clients struggle with standing up for themselves. Relatives and family members can be very insistent or pushy that can lead to triggers for people who have mental health issues.
Our society is not very aware of mental health problems and how to deal with people who have them. Our rehabilitation program offers counseling services and therapeutic interventions to the client as well as their close family members to help them learn assertiveness, effective communication, and emotional or self-expression. Saying no, is not a bad thing, especially when our peace of mind is at stake. You can be better at expressing yourself, at saying no, and that will make your life and that of others around you much easier.

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