How Saying “No” Can Improve Friendships, Work, Happiness & Health

 

Saying no can improve our friendships, work, happiness, and health. It allows us to choose where we put our time and energy and focus on giving it to parts of our life or the relationships that are most important.

A lot of people are afraid of the word “no,” according to mental health experts.

“Boundaries are essential to happiness. They set the expectation of what we will and will not accept. Saying ‘no’ is our way of telling ourselves and others that our desires are important,” says clinical psychologist Dr. Brianna Gaynor, Psy.D.

Saying no is our way of telling ourselves and others that our desires are important. —@DrGaynorSpeaks Click To Tweet

“Many people often have difficulty saying no because the word itself can be associated with disappointment. Many of us want to please others, and saying no can cause a fear that we are not only letting people down but also lacking in some way.”

Saying no can improve our friendships, work, happiness, and health. It allows us to choose where we put our time and energy and focus on giving it to parts of our life or the relationships that are most important. Click To Tweet

The dangers of people-pleasing

What causes people to avoid saying no like the plague? For many, it has to do with fear of rejection or conflict.

One’s confidence in using the word has a lot to do with learned behavior. Many children are taught to do as they’re told without any pushback, often carrying this behavioral conditioning to college and the workforce in the infantry stages of their careers.

Eagerness to climb the career ladder typically translates to them adopting characteristics of a “yes” person who’s dead set on pleasing others. The downside of this non-assertive behavior is that it can work against their mental well-being.

According to Dr. Gaynor,  “How our parents gave their yeses and nos can shape our perception of the world. Over the course of our childhood, we absorb the meaning or motivation behind our parent’s actions. For example, if your upbringing were that of a caring and supportive parent who seemed to be a people-pleaser, this would become your gold standard.”

This study published in EMBO Reports shows that making too many commitments—especially work-related ones—can leave you burdened with overwhelm.

The research further suggests that people-pleasing behavior causes faltering productivity levels and an overall decline in mental health. Being a “yes” person may also signal to others that you’re a pushover that they can take advantage of.

“People-pleasers typically feel pressure for others to like them. They think that they are somehow less valuable, or have a fear of abandonment and the need for others to see their worth. When we are focused on others’ needs, we often anticipate how our actions will help. However, we can also feel less than when we cannot meet the standard while not paying attention to the depletion we experience from always doing,” says Dr. Gaynor.

Authors of this study concluded that with better examples to follow on the act of boundary-setting, increased confidence is inevitable for people just warming up to the idea of being selective with their time and energy.

We put our needs on the back burner each time that we bend to others’ requests. If you’re constantly prioritizing someone else’s needs over yours, it might be time to reevaluate your priorities.

When we are focused on others’ needs, we often anticipate how our actions will help. —@DrGaynorSpeaks Click To Tweet

After-effects of falling into the “busyness” trap

The busyness trap often leads to burnout for many overworked and overwhelmed individuals. It also hints at one’s rare occurrence of saying no. Click To Tweet

We live in a society that normalizes busyness, but it isn’t the flex that people think it is. For some, being busy equivalates to success and desirability. With too many responsibilities weighing you down, that sentiment can only last for so long.

The busyness trap often leads to burnout for many overworked and overwhelmed individuals. It also hints at one’s rare occurrence of saying no.

In another study by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Institute for Behavioral Sciences, Turnerstrasse, that aimed to examine the relationship between over-commitment at work and exhaustion, researchers asked 624 employees from an airplane manufacturing plant to complete a questionnaire. It included:

  • The nine-item Maastricht exhaustion questionnaire used to score exhaustion as a dependent variable
  • The six-item intrinsic-effort (“immersion”) scale as the primary independent variable, stemming from the effort-reward-imbalance model
  • A “perceived work stress” assessment using Siegrist’s effort-reward-imbalance questionnaire, along with the SALSA questionnaire that zeroes in on work stress  relating to social support and psychological job demands (among other factors)

Conclusive findings confirmed an independent association between overcommitment and vital exhaustion. According to the study, vital exhaustion also has links to the manifestation of cardiovascular disease.

The power of no

Greater acts of self-care, like slowing down and agreeing to fewer obligations, can significantly lower your stress levels.

Saying “no” to others means saying yes to you. It’s the ultimate form of self-care. More responsibilities on your plate means added stress. By making fewer commitments, you can shed a lot of unnecessary stress in your life and reclaim a great deal of free time.

Greater acts of self-care, like slowing down and agreeing to fewer obligations, can significantly lower your stress levels. Click To Tweet

How to confidently say no

Be Honest & Direct

If you’re feeling like you have to say no to something, take a minute to think about it. Why do you have to say no to this? Is it because you don’t have time for it or you don’t want to do it? If the person who is asking you for something is someone that you trust, it’s a good idea to have a discussion with them about the situation.

Respond with Assertiveness

Don’t beat around the bush or fabricate excuses. If you need to say no, just say it straightforwardly and clearly. This can save you and the person asking you for something a lot of time and energy.

Find Peace in Knowing That You Can’t Please Everyone

Some people will feel disappointed when you say no to something. That’s just a part of life. When someone asks you for something and you have to say no, don’t beat yourself up about it. You can’t please everyone. Let them know that as much as you’d like to help, you just don’t have the time for it.

You don’t have to justify why you don’t want to do it. Just say no and leave it at that. People may get upset or disappointed with your decision, but they’ll understand if that relationship with you really matters.

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