Saying 'No' Is Not Always So Bad

09/25/2017 11:02 pm ET Updated Sep 26, 2017
It can be hard to say “no”, but sometimes it is the best choice.
It can be hard to say “no”, but sometimes it is the best choice.

You may call yourself a go-getter, an over-achiever, or a multi-tasker. You are the first to step-up when something needs to be done, you stay late, come in early, handle household chores and/or finances, run a variety of committees, coordinate projects and are basically everyone’s go to person. Sound familiar?

If it does, you may be a responsibility junkie. You figure if there is time in your day there is room for one more thing, right? Taking on additional responsibilities makes you useful, powerful and possibly indispensible. And besides, your family needs you and people respect you for your dedication don’t they? Hmmm…maybe not always or as much as you would like.

Being unable to say no to things, or being addicted to responsibility, can be damaging. And, it can also be masking some deeper issues. Finding your inner “no” can be empowering and possibly force you to address things you have been avoiding.

The Power of No

Being asked to take on new things and/or be in charge of additional projects may feel like you are being recognized and appreciated for your abilities. And, while that may be the case in many circumstances, it is also possible that what is being recognized is your easy “yes.” Unfortunately, people will often take advantage of those that are willing to go the extra mile and, as a consequence, over utilize them. This means that rather than being respected for your dedication you are being used to make someone else’s life easier at the expense of your own.

Within your own family, your easy yes could also be causing problems. Not only are you spreading yourself thin with external commitments, but you are also likely to be blurring the responsibility boundaries within your home. The,”I’ll just do it – it’s faster that way,” or “of course (any family member), I will handle it,” approach adds more to your plate and, even worse, fails to teach your family how to grow and work together as team. Learning how to say “no” and push the responsibility back on those to whom it rightly belongs will help you and teach them.

Recognizing the worth of your own time can be difficult. And, often that additional project you just committed to means that your other responsibilities will suffer. This is a no-win for everyone involved, especially for you. Your credibility may suffer and you might be shortchanging other important areas of your life like family and personal time (yes, that time is important too).

Being able to effectively say “no“ to things shows people that you have respect for yourself and your commitments. “No,” rather than a negative, can be a positive and empowering word. By saying “no” when it is appropriate you show people around you that you have boundaries and strong sense of your own value.

“No” Can be Uncomfortable.

For many of us saying “yes” when being asked to do something feels like the right thing. Being asked to do something can feel like someone finds you worthy. So, when we are put in a position where we need to say “no” to something it feels uncomfortable, as though we will make people angry and therefore no longer be seen as a value. Within the family, saying “yes”also can feel like we are showing love which makes saying “no” feel the opposite, like they will think we don’t care.

It can be quite the contrary, however. Once you get past your discomfort with making decisions that require you to say “no” it is possible that you will find that people treat you with more respect than before, and in the case of family, become more self-sufficient.

How You Do It

Keep in mind that finding your inner “no” means weighing things out carefully. Blatantly refusing to do anything asked of you is not a good plan either. Consider the following before you take something on or turn it down.

  • Is it something you are rightly responsible for?
  • Can only YOU do this?
  • Will you be sacrificing something – other projects, other responsibilities, earned personal time – in order to take this on?
  • Will taking this additional thing on benefit you in any way? (i.e. happiness, job growth, fulfillment)
  • Is it something you want to do?

Evaluating your circumstances carefully before you respond is an important step. Determining when to say “no” and when to say “yes” is a balancing act.

What Are You Hiding From?

There are many reasons that people refuse to say “no” to additional responsibilities. Often feeling involved in many things can be tied to our self-esteem. The – "if people need me to do this then it means I am worth something" – mentality.

Another possibility is that immersing ourselves in many different things means we don’t have to think about or face other problems in our lives. If you find yourself looking away from things that need your attention with busyness those neglected things will always find a way to catch up with you.

Whatever way you justify your aversion to the word "no," remember that you may be doing yourself and others a disservice. Finding the right balance can be difficult and might always be a work in progress. However, if you attempt to view “no” as a positive rather than a negative you might find yourself able to use it more and enjoying the benefits it can provide as well.

You can read more advice from Dr. Kurt at Guy Stuff Counseling, Facebook, Google+, or Twitter.

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