The following is adapted from The Self Help Book by Jared Graybeal.
I’m going to say something that will probably make you cringe and breathe a sigh of relief at the same time: it’s time to start learning how to say “no.”
If you struggle with overcommitting or putting too much on your plate, trust me when I say I understand. Sometimes, my brain can feel like one of those rubber-band balls, all jumbled up and tightly wound, because saying “yes” has left me burnt out, exhausted, and wishing I could lock myself in a well-stocked pantry for a few hours.
Some of us waste too much time and energy doing things we don’t enjoy or things that don’t add value simply because we don’t know how to politely decline our friends, family, and coworkers when they invite us to things or ask us to do things. In turn, it becomes difficult to maintain a relative level of clarity in life. Your vision for your future gets skewed, and you become too “busy” to really make any progress.
So, in an effort to help empower all my fellow overcommitted people-pleasers out there, here are a few tips I’ve learned for saying, “No.”
Ask if you can confirm later.
I get asked on the spot to do all kinds of things, and I’m sure you do too. But I hate being unreliable, so I always check my calendar and my to-do list before I confirm anything.
If I get asked to do something I most likely don’t want to do, but I don’t have the courage in the moment to say no (or maybe it would be impolite or too awkward), I will say something like, “I can most likely do that! When I get to the office in the morning, I will check my calendar for that day, then confirm whether I can or not!”
This gives me time to think about everything I have going on, and to also consider whether I really want to do this thing. I’ve gotten so used to saying no that maybe after thinking it through, it is actually something I want to do. Asking to confirm later allows me to not miss out on that opportunity, or to just politely decline later.
This is totally contextual, but most of the time, you can just be honest. If a coworker asks you to grab a drink after work, simply say, “No, thanks!”
Be assertive in your response; being honest in your no will gain you a reputation for being a straightforward person, and most people really respect that.
Explain why (if necessary), but don’t make excuses.
This is similar to being honest, but more elaborate. If a friend asks if you want to go see a movie tomorrow night, don’t make something up and say you have plans. Just politely say, “I would, but I’m trying to save money and I really need to catch up on some rest.”
In these instances, I usually elaborate because I don’t want to miss out on a future invite. In the above example with a coworker, that is typically when I have no interest in grabbing a drink with that person. But the times that I elaborate are the times when I am truly interested, but I just think I should allocate my time elsewhere.
Once you’ve said “no,” or briefly explained why you can’t or don’t want to, then leave it at that.
Saying “no” won’t hurt the relationships that matter.
Does it stress you out even more to imagine dealing with someone else’s disappointment to your “no”? Same. When I first started trying to take care of myself in this way, my brain felt like an even more jumbled rubber band ball because I was so nervous it would ruin my relationships.
But you know what I found? It actually made my relationships stronger. And the ones that failed because of it weren’t worth keeping around in the first place.
It turns out, people who respect and care about you will also respect and care about your boundaries. You have the right to prioritize yourself. In fact, I believe that when you learn to take care of yourself and streamline your life in this way, clarity and personal growth (not to mention productivity) are never far behind.
For more advice on simplifying your life, you can find The Self Help Book on Amazon.
My mission is to encourage, educate, and empower others to live happier, healthier lives. I am a NASM-certified personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, behavioral change specialist, CrossFit Level 2 trainer, and corrective exercise specialist with an education in marketing and psychology from the University of North Florida. I own and operate two companies. One is Superfit Foods, a healthy, subscription-based, fully customizable meal prep company. The other is E3, a business consulting and marketing agency. I’ve done a few cool things, like exhibiting Superfit Foods at Forbes Under 30 and giving a TEDx Talk on nutrition and mental health, and every day I get to work hard at doing what I love.