This week we are looking at different aspects of relationship boundaries, both in our personal lives and in the work place. Yesterday I shared thought about saying no to relationships that are not reciprocal in Clinging to Crumbs, Dreaming of Cake. Today, I want to talk about appropriately using "no" more often.
Saying "no" is one of the most difficult things for women to do. Why? Traditionally women have been trained to be caretakers. How many families expect the mother to take care of everything from making everyone's beds to balancing the checkbook to organizing the school fundraiser? If you are feeling overwhelmed and tired or you wonder where time for you fits in, maybe new attitudes and behavior patterns need to be developed.
Recognize the limits of your time and energy. Make a list of your commitments and prioritize them. Ask yourself, "How much do I want to do this?" Rate it on a scale from 0-10. Then ask, "How important is this?" Again, rate from 0-10. If you get a combined score of 10 or more, then do it! If your score is less than this, consider saying no.
If saying no is not currently in your vocabulary, it may take time and determination. The change will feel uncomfortable for many; some will encounter resistance and frustration. It may take months or even years to feel okay about saying no, refusing to clean up others' messes, not always driving the soccer team to practice, delegating responsibility to others. It will not be easy to hold fast when others try to manipulate you into giving in and going back to your "old accommodating self." However, it is necessary to break these habits. The alternative is burnout at best, physical or mental breakdown at worst.
Who in your life do you need to say no to? Is it the neighbor who "guilts" you into watching her children while she gets her nails done? How about your forgetful child who constantly needs you to bring lunch money to school? Maybe it's the manager who flatters you into planning the office holiday event.
Have you found that committing to something incongruent to your agenda usually happens when you are caught off guard? Someone has some how convinced you to get involved in their project or they desperately need your expertise for an urgent assignment. It's women's tendency to want to be helpful. How often after you have spontaneously said yes to someone's request, you say to yourself, "Oh, why did I say yes again?"
Practice an answer before you are ambushed. You might memorize something like this, "Let me give it some thought and get back to you." This gives you a time-out, time to think before you commit yet again. If you decide you want to help and it's important, feel free to say yes. If you choose no, you might say, "After looking at my commitments, I realize that I will not be able to give you a hand at this time." or "With the commitments I have already made to others, I can't do it justice." Practice these phrases over and over until they become second nature to you.
Consider using technology to help you. The caller id function on your phone is there for a reason! Use it to screen calls. You are under no obligation to answer your phone, let the caller leave a message. This is another way to take a time-out, giving you an opportunity to plan your response according to your needs.
How do you say no to a child or a spouse? Sometimes a simple no is appropriate. However, there will be times when you need to describe why you cannot say yes. Express why no is your answer; be specific in giving your reason, and explain the consequences if you were to say yes.
Resist the urge to be all things to all people! Sometimes saying no is a good thing.