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Issue 8 August 2006

Sanity Saver #10: Learn to Say No

As women, our concern for others is central to the way we make decisions. While men [often] make choices based on principles, women are much more concerned with the impact their decision will have on the people involved; consequently we’re reluctant to say “no.”

We waste so much of our precious time and energy trying to please other people. We think that yes means I love you and no means I don’t love you when that’s simply not the case. All too often we feel that when we say no we’re not just rejecting a request, but we’re rejecting the other person. And since we certainly don't want to reject someone we love, care about or respect, we resist saying no. What’s more, if we see no as a rejection, chances are we ourselves hate to be told no. Consequently, we also hesitate because we don't want anyone to say no to us (not that this ever works).

To most people, unless they've learned otherwise, "no" conjures up thoughts of selfishness, weakness, anger, rejection, failure and stubbornness, to name but a few. It's not surprising that some of us have trouble with this little word. In fact most of us act as if “no” is a four-letter word. May I remind you, it isn’t.

Saying no is a way of caring for and honoring ourselves. When it comes to making decisions our criteria need to be: If this is the only life I know I have, is this how I want to spend my time and energy?

We can ask ourselves this question when someone asks us to go out to dinner, when being offered a new project, when being called to volunteer for a charity function or in our child’s school.

Most of us pressure ourselves to give an immediate response when asked a question. But if truth be told, very few things require an immediate answer. Why not say, “let me get back to you,” and take the time you need to decide if this is really right for you or if you’re being seduced by the I can do it all syndrome?"

If someone asks you to do something that you don’t want to do you can simply say, “Thanks for asking, but that’s just not going to work for me.” Remember you have every right to say no to something you don't want to do. The truth is, learning to say no is an acquired skill. However, like learning how to swim, you get better with practice. Using this powerful two-letter word doesn't mean you’ll never do a favor for a friend again or accept another invitation about which you're somewhat ambivalent. However, when you make a decision to go against your feelings, it will be an adult decision, not the decision of your guilt demons.

Moreover, learning to say no can dramatically increase your time and help you to feel better about yourself and less resentful of others.

We have to be willing to say no to certain things in order to make room to say yes to others. Saying no is a way of caring for and honoring your authentic self. It’s a way to keep in touch with what’s most essential in your life.

For more information on 30 Days to Sanity please visit www.30daystosanity.com.